Indonesia’s Mount Merapi Volcano Erupts, Sending Lava and Gas Clouds 9,000 Feet Down Its Slopes

Indonesia’s most active volcano has erupted, sending a river of lava and searing gas clouds flowing 3,000 metres (9,850ft) down its slopes.

The sounds of the eruption could be heard 18 miles (30km) away, officials said. No casualties were reported.

It was Mount Merapi’s biggest lava flow since authorities raised its danger level in November, said Hanik Humaida, the head of the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre in the nearby city of Yogyakarta.

She said the volcano’s lava dome was growing rapidly, causing hot lava and gas clouds to flow down its slopes.

After morning rain, the ash fall turned into muck in several villages. More than 150 people, mostly elderly, living within 3 miles of the crater were evacuated to barracks set up for displaced people.

In November authorities evacuated nearly 2,000 people living on the mountain in Magelang and Sleman districts, but most have since returned.

The alert is being maintained at the second highest level, and authorities told people to stay out of a danger zone around the crater.

The 2,968-metre volcano on the densely populated Java island is the most active of dozens of Indonesian volcanoes and has erupted repeatedly of late. Merapi’s last major eruption, in 2010, killed 347 people.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific’s so-called “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines.

SOURCE: The Associated Press