A cataclysmic eruption of Mount Semeru – in East Java’s Malang and Lumajang Regencies on Saturday, 04 December 2021, has caused some 500 families to flee for their lives. According to Kompas.com, the explosion killed at least 13, left perhaps another dozen missing, and caused severe injuries, including severe burns to dozens of others.
The death toll was current through Sunday morning, 05 December 2021, and is expected to climb further. Identification efforts for the dead are underway.
The unexpected explosion began at around 3:00 pm – 90 minutes after lava began flowing downhill from the mountain’s wall. The actual blast sent billowing clouds of volcanic ash cascading down the mountainside in a southeasterly direction towards Pronojiwo and spewed volcanic clouds an estimated 40,000 feet into the atmosphere. Carried on prevailing winds, ash fell on the City of Malang 35 kilometers to the northwest.
Mount Semeru is 260 kilometers west of Denpasar.
AirNav Indonesia, which manages Indonesian airspace, continues to monitor the eruption. Flights are being rerouted to avoid contact with the clouds of volcanic dust that can affect jet engine operation. The eruption has not affected flight schedules at surrounding airports in Surabaya and other nearby cities.
President Joko Widodo has ordered the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) head, Major General Suharyanto, to travel to East Java to lead the rescue and relief effort.
As reported by The Jakarta Globe, government volcanologists cite high levels of rainfall as causing a collapse of Mount Semeru’s mountainside as triggering the massive eruption. The preliminary analysis does not link the eruption to an earthquake or rapid increase in magma, strengthening theories that blame a landslide of the mountainside as precipitating the explosion.
Rumah Zakat Action, a local volunteer relief group, has identified that among refugees sheltering in Lumajang, has identified an urgent need for surgical masks, ready-to-eat food, mineral water, baby and toddler food, blankets, sleeping matts and mattresses, medicine, and potable water.
Izzatul Yazid, the coordinator of Rumah Zakat Action, told Kompas.com that his group had deployed volunteers from surrounding communities to assist the evacuation and relief effort. The group has sent a rescue ambulance, two thousand packets of donated food, medical masks, respirator masks, generators, emergency lighting, personal protective equipment, oxygen, and first-aid kits.
On Sunday, the day after the eruption, volcanic ash continued to fall on the Regency of Lumajang, where electrical power has been interrupted, and there is a lack of fuel supplies.
Rumah Zakat Action is busily establishing volunteer command posts to help the volcano’s victims with basic food, medical, and sheltering supplies.