By Ivan Okuda and Pan Pylas, The Associated Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Rescuers on Saturday tried to dig through a cloud of volcanic ash from an Indonesian volcano that erupted suddenly, killing at least one person and injuring several others.
Authorities issued a dusk-to-dawn evacuation order for up to 5,000 people near Mount Semeru after it became volatile and belched ash late Friday, and the eruption’s effects were spreading.
The collapse of several slopes blanketed villages below with thick gray ash and rocks, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the disaster agency’s spokesman. The effects of the blast included rock fall, poor visibility and water leaking from a network of canals that drain into the sea.
“We are concerned because the eruption just happened, and also because it happened so suddenly,” Nugroho said. “It’s hard to say how long it will take before there is no further danger.”
A video posted on Facebook showed white dust billowing from the crater before an explosion of ash as people raced to flee.
Energy ministry official Sudirman Said said at least one person was killed and six others were seriously injured. Photos from the ministry showed two badly burned men being pulled from the cloud.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 10 people were reported missing, including a child believed to be about 10 years old. He said several hundred homes had been damaged and another 500 had been destroyed by debris thrown up to 300 meters (yards) from the crater.
In Gombak on the east coast of Sumatra, hundreds of residents from 11 villages have been evacuated, but those from three villages near the crater remain under threat, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
An estimated 2,500 residents are still at risk, and authorities were trying to decide whether to evacuate them later Saturday, he said.
The agency said about 500 households were being provided with clean water by helicopter to avoid catching water on their roofs.
No significant volcanic activity was detected at nearby Mount Sinabung, which has been erupting sporadically for the past decade after periodically erupting for hundreds of years.
Sileru is located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the popular resort island of Bali, which was rocked by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake Tuesday. Its eruptions periodically cause flight disruptions.
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a massive tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.