Indonesia raises alert at volcano to highest level

Laborers work on the site of a new dam in anticipation of the eruption of Mount Kelud volcano, at Tulungrejo village, Indonesia, on Oct. 5, with the volcano seen in the distance.
Laborers work on the site of a new dam in anticipation of the eruption of Mount Kelud volcano, at Tulungrejo village, Indonesia, on Oct. 5, with the volcano seen in the distance.Endra Susana / AFP - Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Indonesia warned Tuesday that one of its most deadly volcanos was poised to erupt and ordered nearly 30,000 villagers on the mountain’s slopes to evacuate.

Mount Kelud, which has been rumbling for weeks, was placed on the highest alert level, meaning scientists believe a major eruption is imminent, said a posting on the government-run volcanology center Web site.

The status requires local authorities to evacuate people living on the slopes.

Surono, a top scientist at the center, said that all people living within 6 miles of the peak must evacuate. Surono, who goes by a single name, said authorities late Tuesday had begun transporting some people out of the danger zone.

The 5,679-foot Mount Kelud is one of the most active volcanoes in the world’s largest archipelagic nation. It last erupted in 1990, destroying a hundred villages and killing 5,160 people.

The mountain is on Java island about 385 miles east of the capital, Jakarta.

The volcano’s explosive activity typically starts with a steam explosion — when surfacing magma meets ground water. Such eruptions produce hot mud flows and pyroclastic surges and flows.

Evacuation orders at Indonesian volcanoes are often patchily enforced. Without compensating farmers for loses to crops or livestock, it is difficult to force them to leave their villages. Another worry for homeowners is thieves targeting empty properties.

Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” — a series of volcanoes and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.