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Evacuations in Indonesia as Mount Semeru erupts, spewing river of lava

Mount Semeru, the tallest volcano in Java, Indonesia, erupted on Dec. 4, and sent a column of ash into the sky and rivers of lava down steep slopes. (Video: @KementerianLHK)

Mount Semeru, the tallest volcano on Java, Indonesia, erupted Sunday, sending a massive column of ash into the sky and rivers of lava flowing down steep slopes.

Nearly 2,000 people have fled their homes, according to a statement tweeted by BNPB, Indonesia’s disaster-management agency, which issued a high alert level and warned locals to steer clear of the eruption. There are no immediate reports of casualties.

Thousands of people remained on high alert Monday, Reuters reported, and authorities continued to ask residents to stay about five miles from the volcano.

Sunday’s eruption comes exactly a year after the same volcano erupted, leaving more than 50 people dead and villages blanketed in ash and mud. It spewed another massive column of ash two weeks later.

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About 2,000 people have fled their homes due to the eruption of Mt. Semeru, the tallest volcano in Indonesia, on Dec. 4. (Video: Reuters)

The 12,000-foot volcano rises above scattered villages in eastern Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, where it has wrought periodic havoc for hundreds of years. Indonesia — which sits in the Ring of Fire, a rim around the Pacific Ocean known for volcanic and seismic activity — is home to more than 140 volcanoes.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said it has set up about a dozen evacuation points at schools, offices and village halls for nearly 2,000 displaced people, while emergency services continue their search-and-rescue mission. The agency is also distributing masks to help reduce the respiratory health risks from breathing in volcanic ash.

“Most roads have been closed since this morning and now it is raining volcanic ash and it has covered the view of the mountain,” volunteer Bayu Deny Alfianto told Reuters by telephone from the area.

West Java experienced a deadly 5.6-magnitude earthquake in November that killed at least 268 people. Though the quake was technically moderate, the high death toll was the result of a shallow quake epicenter and the region’s dense population.