An explosive volcanic eruption on Indonesia’s most populous island blasted ash and debris 18 kilometers into the air, killing three people while forcing authorities to evacuate more than 100,000 and close seven airports.
The overnight eruption of Java island’s Mount Kelud could be heard up to 200 kilometers away, Indonesia’s disaster agency said.
“The eruption sounded like thousands of bombs exploding,” Ratno Pramono, a 35-year-old farmer, said after returning from an evacuation center to check on his property in the village of Sugihwaras, around five kilometers (three miles) from the crater. “I thought doomsday was upon us. Women and children were screaming and crying.”
Ash and grit fell to earth in towns and cities across the region, including Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city after Jakarta, with a population of about 3 million. It also fell even farther afield in Yogyakarta, where motorists switched on headlights in daylight.
A 60-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man were killed in the village of Pandansari, about seven kilometers from the mountain, when the roofs of their homes collapsed under the weight of the ash and volcanic debris unleashed during the eruption, the disaster agency said. A 70-year-old man died after being hit by a collapsed wall while waiting to be evacuated from Pandansari, where the volcanic ash lay up to eight inches deep in some places.
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The large international airport in Surabaya and airports in the cities of Malang, Yogyakarta, Solo, Bandung, Semarang and Cilacap were closed due to reduced visibility and the dangers posed to aircraft engines by ash, Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said.
Virgin Australia said it had cancelled its today’s flights from Australia to several locations due to the eruption, including the resort islands of Bali in Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand.
The disaster agency said tremors were still wracking the volcano, but that scientists didn’t expect another major eruption. It said all villages within 10 kilometers of Kelud more than 100,000 people had been evacuated to temporary shelters, but that some villagers were returning to their homes to begin cleaning up.
The 1,731-meter-high Mount Kelud in eastern Java Indonesia’s most densely populated island and home to more than half of the country’s 240 million people has been rumbling for several weeks and was under close observation. The mountain is about 600 kilometres east of Jakarta, the capital.