Indonesia’s Mt Kelud volcano erupts: Tens of thousands flee, airports closed

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Indonesia town covered in ash

Gallery: Chaos as Indonesian volcano Mount Kelud erupts in Java

Around 200,000 Indonesians have been ordered to leave their villages after a volcano on the main island of Java erupted, spewing ash and sand 17 kilometres into the air.

The eruption of Mount Kelud, in eastern Java, caused widespread disruption to flights in the area, with Virgin Australia cancelling all flights to and from Phuket, Denpasar, Christmas Island and Cocos Island.

Virgin Australia says passenger safety is its priority and it cannot safely fly within 100 nautical miles of the ash cloud.

Airports at Surabaya and in the cities of Yogyakarta and Solo were closed and Qantas cancelled its Friday afternoon flight from Sydney to Jakarta.

A Jetstar flight from Perth to Singapore was forced to turn back this morning about an hour-and-a-half into the journey due to the ash cloud.

One woman says she and her partner were on their way to Singapore to go on a cruise.

“We were so excited, being Valentine’s Day… everything was great, having a few drinks on the plane, and then all of a sudden Adam’s looked out of the window and said ‘We’re doing a 360’,” she said.

“We’ve got a cruise to go to tomorrow and so we’re just hoping to get on the cruise. We’ve been looking forward to it for months and months.

“Jeststar staff were absolutely magnificent, they kept everyone very well informed. They came down, they were very apologetic.

“It’s not their fault, and I’d rather land safely than not land at all.”

Mount Kelud, located in Kediri district, is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the densely populated island.

People living within a 10-kilometre radius of Kelud were asked to evacuate late on Thursday, just hours before it began erupting.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says a rain of ash, sand and rocks is falling on an area stretching 15 kilometres from the volcano’s crater.

“Sparks of light can be continuously seen at the peak,” he added.

The 1,731-metre Mount Kelud has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 1500, including around 10,000 deaths in a massive 1568 eruption.

It is one of some 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier this month Mount Sinabung on western Sumatra island erupted, leaving at least 16 people dead.

Sinabung has been erupting on an almost daily basis since September, coating villages and crops with volcanic ash and forcing tens of thousands out of their homes.

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