Rescue workers evacuated more people Monday from nearby villages after Indonesia’s Mount Semeru erupted, as officials warned of danger from cooling lava despite the volcano’s lack of activity.
More than 2,400 villagers have now fled their homes and sought refuge in 11 evacuation centers after the eruption of the highest mountain on the country’s main island of Java early Sunday morning.
“The army, police and local village and disaster officials are continuing to evacuate people in Korah Kubukan where the hot ash cloud and cold lava may move,” Abdul Mahari, spokesman for the Indonesian Disaster Mitigation Agency, told local television.
So far the total number of people evacuated is 2,489.
Watch: Mount Semeru volcano in Indonesia erupts as alert is raised
Officials declared a state of emergency for the next two weeks, and authorities distributed free masks to protect against ash in the air while setting up public kitchens for evacuees.
Less intense volcanic activity
On Monday morning, dozens of evacuees in Lumagang district where Semeru is located ventured back to their ash-covered homes to retrieve their important belongings, before returning to shelters, according to an AFP journalist.
Some herded livestock while others carried devices such as televisions and refrigerators as the volcano spewed ash in the background.
Mahari said visible observations of Semeru on Monday morning indicated less intense volcanic activity but warned of a possible danger from lava flows that cooled after heavy rains.
“What we worry about are economic activities like sand mining. We want to make sure that the path that the hot ash cloud and the cold lava can take is completely devoid of any activity.”
Also read: Indonesia earthquake survivors are asking for supplies as rains hamper rescue operations
The government alert status of danger from the volcano was raised to its highest level on Sunday. It was previously at the second-highest level since the big eruption last December.
eruption last year
Last year, the volcano killed 51 people, damaged more than 5,000 homes and forced nearly 10,000 people to seek refuge.
Many of the victims of that disaster were sand miners working high on the slopes of the volcano.
Indonesia is located on the Pacific Ocean “Ring of Fire” where the meeting of continental plates causes significant volcanic and seismic activity. The archipelagic country in Southeast Asia has approximately 130 active volcanoes.