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Java volcano sends thousands fleeing

15 Feb BBC

Thousands of people are evacuating their homes in Indonesia after a volcano erupted in east Java.Mount Kelud spewed ash and debris over a large area, including the city of Surabaya, about 130km (80 miles) away. Two people died after their houses collapsed under the weight of ash, officials said. Some towns were said to be covered by 4cm (1.6 in) of ash.

Three major airports in Surabaya, Solo and Yogyakarta were forced to shut down because of low visibility.There are also fears that debris could damage aircraft engines.Andi Wirson, general manager at the Yogyakarta airport, said: “The current conditions are that volcanic ash is now covering the runway, apron and tarmac. We have already measured the thickness of the volcanic ash, which is at 5cm on the runway and tarmac.”Officials raised an alert on Thursday around an hour before the volcano erupted, and urged around 200,000 people living in 36 villages in a 10km (6 mile) radius around the volcano to evacuate.However, it is not clear if they have all left their homes.

Many in Indonesia are quite used to volcanic eruptions, and are reluctant to leave their homes and belongings, correspondents say.Officials said two people died after their homes, which appeared to have weak structures, could not withstand the weight of gravel and ash, and caved in.Some of the evacuees tried to visit their houses on Friday morning to gather clothing and valuables, but were forced to turn back by the continuous stream of volcanic ash and rocks from the volcano, AFP news agency reported.The volcano spewed ash and gravel that flew as far as 200km (124 miles) away, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the BBC.

The nearest town from the volcano, Kediri, looks completely grey and white, the BBC’s Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta reports.

The thick dust makes it dangerous for pedestrians and vehicles to be on the road, and authorities say residents are volunteering to sweep the streets, our correspondent adds.

The 1,731-m (5,600 ft) Mount Kelud - which had been rumbling for several weeks erupted at about 21:50 local time (16:50 GMT) on Thursday.However, the head of Indonesia’s Volcano and Geology Agency, Hendrasto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said the eruption was gradually subsiding.

 

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