Java Island Volcano Erupts in Indonesia, 13 Confirmed Dead

Indonesian emergency officials reported Saturday that at least 13 people were killed and dozens injured after a volcano on Java Island erupted.

Videos shared on social media showed residents fleeing a giant ash cloud coming from Mount Semeru. According to witnesses, people panicked as thick smoke and debris covered nearby villages, leaving them in total darkness.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said at least 57 people had been injured, including some who suffered severe burns. All the injured were taken to various hospitals and medical facilities for treatment.

BNPB officials told the media that the eruption had left at least 11 villages in the Lumajang district covered in volcanic ash, forcing many residents to search for refuge in mosques and makeshift shelters. According to official data, at least 902 people have been evacuated from the area.

Ten people were trapped in buildings but were rescued, the BNPB added.

Authorities and rescue personnel responded immediately to the eruption, but villagers’ evacuation efforts have been hampered by suffocating smoke gushing from the volcano, storms and a power outage.

A road and bridge leading to the nearby city of Malang were also cut off during the eruption, a local official identified as Thoriqul Haq told Reuters news agency.

Indonesian media reported that the eruption had started around 02:30 p.m. local time (07:30 GMT), and authorities established a 5-km restricted zone from the volcano’s crater.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in Darwin, Australia, quickly warned that the ash appeared to have broken off the summit and was moving southwest over the Indian Ocean. VAAC meteorologist Campbell Biggs told reporters that nearby airlines would be forced to divert their flight paths to avoid the ash cloud, which rises as high as 15,000m.

Mount Semeru, which rises 3,676m above sea level, is in a state of permanent eruption but usually spews ash up to about 4,300 m. Saturday’s eruption was a “pretty significant increase” in its intensity, Biggs added.

In Indonesia, volcanic and seismic activity is frequent because it sits in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the continental plates are located.