Authorities have turned up the alert level for Java’s highest volcano, Mount Semeru, warning it could erupt again just weeks after an earlier blow-up left 48 people dead and dozens missing.
Indonesia’s geological agency said Saturday it spotted increasing activity that could trigger another avalanche of lava and searing gas, similar to the deadly eruption on December 4.
That blast was followed by heavy monsoon rains that partially collapsed a lava dome on the 12,060-foot mountain.
Arifin Tasrif, Indonesia’s energy and mineral resources minister, told the Associated Press about 280 million cubic feet of sand from the volcano’s crater is clogging the Besuk Kobokan River, which is in the path the lava takes.
“As a result, if there is another eruption, it would block the flow path and create new lava flows spreading to the surrounding area,” he said.
Tasrif added that the government had set up a new danger map and was urging people to follow it. Indonesia also raised the alert level of an eruption to its second-highest.
Search and rescue operations following the earlier eruption ended Friday, with 36 people still unaccounted for. More than 100 residents were injured — 22 with serious burns — and more than 5,200 houses and buildings were damaged, according to National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari.
After visiting the area last week, Indonesia President Joko Widodo vowed to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting the worst-hit town of Lumajang to other cities, and move nearly 3,000 houses out of the danger zone.
Though Semeru has erupted many times in the last 200 years — including in January — tens of thousands still live on its fertile slopes.
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along a horseshoe-shaped string of Pacific Rim fault lines nicknamed the “Ring of Fire.”
With Post wire services