Indonesia's Mount Merapi erupts with bursts of lava, ash

Lava flows down Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano, as seen from Sleman in Yogyakarta on July 18, 2021.  

Indonesia's most volatile volcano erupted Sunday on the densely populated island of Java, spewing smoke and ash high into the air and sending streams of lava and gasses down its slopes. No casualties were reported.

Mount Merapi is the most active of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has repeatedly erupted with lava and gas clouds recently. The 2,968-meter (9,737-foot) peak is near Yogyakarta, an ancient city of several hundred thousand people embedded in a large metro area.

The mountain has seen increased volcanic activity in recent weeks, with its lava dome growing rapidly, before it partially collapsed on Sunday, sending rocks and ash flowing down the volcano's southwest flank, said Hanik Humaida, who heads the city of Yogyakarta's Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center.

This latest eruption sent hot ash 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) into the sky, and the searing clouds of gas traveled up to 3 kilometers down its slopes several times, the country's geology agency said on its website.

Mount Merapi has unleashed clouds of hot ash at least seven times since Sunday morning, as well as a series of fast-moving pyroclastic flows, a mixture of rock, debris, lava and gasses, said Humaida. The rumbling sound could be heard several kilometers away.

Ash from the eruption blanketed several villages and nearby towns, she added.

Villagers living on Merapi's fertile slopes were advised to stay 5 kilometers away from the crater's mouth and should be aware of the danger posed by lava, Indonesia's Geology and Volcanology Research Agency said. Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people.

The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center did not raise Merapi's alert status, which already was at the second-highest of four levels since it began erupting last November.

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

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 7:03:32 AM |

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