Flights cancelled as volcano erupts
A volcanic eruption from Mount Kelud in Indonesia has caused a widepsread ash cloud, which has meant some flights out of Australia have been cancelled.PT0M55S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-32qy7 620 349 February 14, 2014
Jakarta: Two people have been crushed to death and more than 100,000 evacuated on the Indonesian island of Java after a volcanic eruption blanketed rooftops with rocks and ash, causing homes to cave in.
The man and woman in their 60s were killed in two separate homes in the sub-district of Malang on Java, where Mount Kelud spectacularly erupted on Thursday night.
‘‘The homes were poorly built and seemed to have collapsed easily under the weight,’’ National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugoro said on Friday. ‘‘Over 100,000 people have been evacuated.’’
Roads were covered in volcanic ash after the eruption. Photo: AP
He said the eruptions had ceased, but the ash had spread as far as 500 kilometres to the west and north-west, causing more problems, especially for airlines.
The cloud from the eruption forced the shutdown of airports at Surabaya and the cities of Yogyakarta, Solo, Malang and Semarang in East Java and Central Java provinces, stranding thousands of passengers. Flights from Australia to Bali, Jakarta and Phuket were cancelled.
The head of the country’s volcano-monitoring agency, Muhammad Hendrasto, said the mountain in Kediri regency in East Java province erupted late on Thursday, about 90 minutes after authorities raised its status to the highest level.
Mount Kelud erupting, as seen from Mbalak village in East Java. Photo: AP
Mr Hendrasto urged about 200,000 people living in 36 villages within 10 kilometres of the crater to evacuate.
‘‘It is spewing lava right now while gravel rain has fallen in some areas,’’ Mr 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. Many tried to return to their homes to gather clothing and valuables – only to be forced back by a continuous downpour of volcanic materials.
Volcano Mount Kelud erupts
A man wears a mask as he rides a becak, a kind of rickshaw, on a road covered with from Mount Kelud, in Yogyakarta. Photo: REUTERS
The ash has blanketed the Javanese cities of Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Solo, where international airports were closed temporarily, Transport Ministry aviation director-general Herry Bakti said. Metro TV showed images of grounded planes covered in ash.
"All flights to those airports have been cancelled, and other flights, including some between Australia and Indonesia, have been rerouted," he said on Friday.
"We will reassess the situation tonight regarding reopening the airports, but at the moment, it's too dangerous to fly anywhere near the plume."
On the outskirts of Yogyakarta, authorities closed Borobudur – the world's largest Buddhist temple, which attracts hundred of tourists daily – after it was also rained upon with dust from the volcano some 200 kilometres east.
At a temporary shelter in the village of Bladak, roughly 10 kilometres from the volcano's crater, about 400 displaced people, including children, slept on the floor wearing safety masks.
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 kilometres away killed at least 5160.
Earlier this month, Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province erupted as authorities were allowing thousands of villagers who had been evacuated to return, killing 16 people. Sinabung has been erupting for four months, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people.
AFP, Reuters, AP