YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesia’s most volatile volcano erupted on the densely populated island of Java on Sunday, spewing smoke and ash high into the air and sending rivers of lava and gas down its slopes. No casualties were reported.
Mount Merapi has unleashed hot ash clouds at least seven times since Sunday morning, as well as a series of fast-moving pyroclastic flows, a mixture of rock, rubble, lava and gases, said Hanik Humaida, who heads Yogyakarta’s volcanology and geological hazard prevention center. The rumbling sound could be heard several kilometers away.
The mountain has seen increased volcanic activity in recent weeks, with its lava dome growing rapidly before partially collapsing on Sunday, causing stones and ash to flow down the volcano’s southwest flank, Humaida said.
Ashes from the eruption covered several villages and nearby towns, she said.
Villagers who live on the fertile slopes of Merapi have been advised to stay 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the mouth of the crater and be aware of the danger posed by lava, the Indonesian Geology and Volcanology Agency said.
The last major eruption at Merapi in 2010 killed 347 people.
The 2,968 meter high peak is located near Yogyakarta, an ancient city with several hundred thousand inhabitants, nestled in a large subway area. The city is also a center of Javanese culture and the seat of royal dynasties that go back centuries.
That most recent eruption sent hot ash up into the sky 1,000 meters and the scorching gas clouds traveled up to 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) down the slopes several times, the country’s geology agency said on its website.
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.
The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center has not raised Merapi’s alert status, which has been at the second highest of four levels since the eruption began last November.
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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