Mass evacuation in Indonesia as Java volcano erupts

Three people have been killed after their home collapsed from the weight of volcanic ash, as Alice Budisatrijo reports

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Tens of thousands of Indonesians have fled their homes 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.

Officials said three people died after their houses collapsed under the weight of ash.

Airports in Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Solo shut down because of low visibility. There are also fears that debris could damage aircraft engines.

Yogyakarta airport manager Andi Wirson said the runway was covered in a 5cm-thick layer of ash.

A man wears a mask as he rides a rickshaw on a road covered with ash from Mount Kelud, in Yogyakarta, 14 February 2014 Residents wore masks to protect themselves from the dust and ash in the air
A woman gestures during the evacuation in Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, on 14 February 2014 Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate their homes and seek temporary shelter
A man covered with ash from Mount Kelud is seen on his motorcycle in Yogyakarta, 14 February 2014 Motorists were covered with ash as they travelled through Yogyakarta

Officials raised an alert on Thursday about an hour before the volcano erupted.

They urged people living in 36 villages within 10km of the volcano to evacuate.

Recent Indonesian eruptions

  • Mt Rokatenda on Palue island erupted in August, killing six people
  • Mt Sinabung on Sumatra island erupted in February 2014, killing 14
  • Mt Merapi on Java island killed 353 people in a series of eruptions in 2010.

Tens of thousands fled to temporary shelters.

Officials said two people died when their homes caved in under the weight of gravel and ash.

A 70-year-old man was killed when a wall collapsed while he was waiting to be evacuated.

Some of the evacuees tried to visit their houses on Friday morning to gather their possessions, but were forced to turn back by the stream of volcanic ash and rocks from the volcano.

"The whole place was shaking - it was like we were on a ship in high seas," one resident told AFP new agency.

"We fled and could see lava in the distance flowing into a river."

Covered in grey
new map

The volcano spewed ash and gravel that flew as far as 200km away, officials said.

The BBC's Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta says thick dust in villages close the volcano makes it dangerous for pedestrians and vehicles to be on the road.

Mount Kelud, which had been rumbling for several weeks, erupted on Thursday evening.

Officials said on Friday that the eruption was gradually subsiding.

Experts say the volcano tends to quieten down after a large eruption, and more big eruptions are unlikely.

The volcano last erupted in 1990, killing dozens of people. A powerful eruption in 1919 killed around 5,000 people.

Indonesia lies across a series of geological fault-lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

There are about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

Earlier this month, Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra erupted, killing at least 14 people.

Are you in Java? How have you been affected by the eruption of the volcano? Send your stories to Haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk with the heading Java.

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