Indonesian villagers try to escape the eruption as the sky turns black

Indonesia’s Mount Semeru spews smoke and ash in Lumajang, East Java.

Thousands of villagers living near Indonesia’s Mount Semeru ran for refuge to the wail of emergency sirens on Sunday as lava snaked toward their homes under a black sky after the volcano erupted.

Locals fled on motorbikes, sometimes in threes, as a mushroom cloud of ash approached and monsoon rains lashed the area in East Java.

“It was dark and it was raining. The rain was not only water but also volcanic ash. It was like mud,” said an AFP journalist on site.

Indonesian authorities raised their alert level for the volcano to its highest level after the crater spewed hot ash a mile into the sky.

It happened just a year after the volcano last erupted, killing at least 51 people and devastating homes.

Rescue workers again rushed to evacuate villagers in the area on Sunday when a colossal ash cloud engulfed all light.

A rescue worker, Gunawan, filmed the clouds overhead as the midday sky darkened ominously as if it were midnight.

“It’s getting dark, brother,” he said to the camera as a seismograph whistled in the background.

Internet was down and phone signals were patchy, but villagers were alerted to the danger by sirens and the beating of bamboo drums by local volunteers.

Semeru is the highest mountain on Indonesia’s main island of Java and lies around 800 kilometers southeast of the capital Jakarta amidst a cluster of craters in a lunar-like landscape.

The Southeast Asian archipelagic state has almost 130 active volcanoes.

Semeru is the highest mountain on the Indonesian main island of Java

Semeru is the highest mountain on the Indonesian main island of Java.


Last year’s eruption caused locals to comb through destroyed belongings after their homes were covered in ash.

It remains to be seen what damage the eruption will do this time, as lava is still heading toward homes and owners are being told to stay eight kilometers (five miles) from the crater.

Many villagers, mostly women and children, took shelter in local halls and schools, some as far as 20 kilometers away.

Gunawan, who goes by only one name like many Indonesians, said everyone is safe for now, although their belongings and homes may not be there by the end of the day.

As he flashed a peace sign at his rescue post against a backdrop of dark haze and monsoon rain, he tried to calm people down.

“Salam tangguh, salam presisi!” he said and meant “Cheers”, his voice relaxed but muffled behind a gas mask.

© 2022 AFP

Citation: Indonesia villagers race to escape eruption as sky goes black (4 December 2022), retrieved 4 December 2022 from

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