(Al Jazeera) At least one person has been killed and dozens suffered severe burns after the Semeru volcano in Indonesia’s East Java province erupted on Saturday, spewing out huge clouds of smoke and ash, officials said.
Videos shared on Saturday by the country’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) showed residents running in panic as towering smoke and ash blanketed some nearby villages in Lumajang district.
The deputy chief of Lumajang district, Indah Masdar, told a news conference one person had died and 41 people had suffered burn injuries.
The BNPB said later that 35 patients were being treated at local medical facilities.
Indah asked for helicopters to rescue people trapped inside buildings.
“We’re in big distress,” she said, adding there were at least 10 people trapped. “It’s harrowing, their families are all crying.”
Thoriqul Haq, district head of Lumajang, said a number of sand miners were trapped near mines.
Haq told Reuters that the road and bridge connecting Lumajang and the nearby city of Malang were severed.
“This has been a very pressing, rapid condition since it erupted,” he said. Haq added that evacuations were underway.
He later told news channel MetroTV that the severed bridge meant one nearby district had no access to medical help.
“Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness,” Haq told TV One, adding that several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas.
Authorities were setting up evacuation tents, but evacuations have been hampered by thick smoke, BNPB chief Suharyanto said.
Television reports showed people running in panic under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust.
AirNav Indonesia, which controls Indonesian airspace, said in a statement the eruption did not “cause significant impact” on flights.
The 3,676-metre (12,060-foot) Semeru, the highest on the country’s most densely populated island, is among Indonesia’s nearly 130 active volcanoes. It erupted in January, causing no casualties.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines. Indonesia has about 128 active volcanoes.