YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesia’s most active volcano erupted on Monday with its largest lava flow in months, sending a river of lava and scorching gas clouds 3.5 kilometers (more than 2 miles) down its slopes to the densely populated island of Java streamed.
The rumbling sound was heard several kilometers away as Mount Merapi erupted and hurled hot ash 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) into the sky. Ash covered nearby cities, but evacuation orders have long been in place near the volcano and no casualties have been reported.
It was Merapi’s largest lava flow since authorities raised the danger level last November, said Hanik Humaida, director of the Yogyakarta Center for Volcanology and Geological Security.
She said the lava dome just below the southwestern rim of Merapi and the lava dome in the crater have both been active since late July. The volume of the dome on the southwestern edge was estimated to be 1.8 million cubic meters (66.9 million cubic feet) and about 3 meters (9.8 feet) in height before it partially collapsed Monday morning and pyroclastic currents rushed rapidly down the southwest edge at least twice .
The 2,968 meter high peak is located near Yogyakarta, an ancient city with several hundred thousand inhabitants, nestled in a large metropolitan area on the island of Java. The city is a center of Javanese culture and has been the seat of royal dynasties for centuries.
Merapi’s alert status has been at the second highest of four levels since the eruption began last November, and the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Reduction has not increased it despite the increased volcanic activity last week.
People are advised to stay 5 kilometers from the crater’s mouth and beware of the danger of lava, the agency said.
Ashes from the eruption covered several villages and nearby towns, Humaida said. Cloudy weather blocked the view of the summit on Monday morning.
Mount Merapi is the most active of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has recently erupted repeatedly with clouds of lava and gas.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the ocean.
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