published Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Indonesia's Mount Kelud in Java island erupts

Villagers walk as they are evacuated from their homes on the slope of Mount Kelud in Kediri, East Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Indonesia's mount Kelud in densely populated Java Island has erupted, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.
Villagers walk as they are evacuated from their homes on the slope of Mount Kelud in Kediri, East Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Indonesia's mount Kelud in densely populated Java Island has erupted, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of people were evacuated after Mount Kelud on densely populated Java island erupted, spewing ash and raining gravel, an official said early Friday.

Muhammad Hendrasto, head of the country's volcano monitoring agency, said the mountain in Kediri regency in East Java province erupted late Thursday, about 90 minutes after authorities raised its status to the highest level. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Hendrasto urged about 200,000 people living in 36 villages within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the crater to evacuate.

"It is spewing lava right now while gravel rain has fallen in some areas," Hendrasto said. "We worry that the gravel rain can endanger people who are evacuating."

A series of huge blasts unleashed stones and gravel, causing panic among villagers who immediately fled to safer areas.

Media reports said the eruption unleashed volcanic material to up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the crater.

In 1990, Kelud kicked out searing fumes and lava that killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds. In 1919, a powerful explosion that reportedly could be heard hundreds of miles away killed at least 5,160.

The 1,731-meter (5,680-feet) Kelud is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, one the world's largest archipelago nations. It is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire" -- a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

Earlier this month, Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province erupted as authorities were allowing thousands of villagers who had been evacuated to return to its slopes, killing 16 people.

Sinabung has been erupting for four months, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people.

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