15 Feb 2014

200,000 flee erupting volcano in Java

6:47 am on 15 February 2014

A spectacular volcanic eruption in Indonesia has killed at least two people and forced mass evacuations, disrupting long-haul flights and closing international airports.

About 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate on the island of Java after two eruptions from Mount Kelud.

Soldiers evacuate residents in Malang, east Java.

Soldiers evacuate residents in Malang, east Java. Photo: AFP

The disaster agency says hot ash, sand and rocks have rained down on towns many kilometres from the volcano's crater in Kediri district, eastern Java, including the city of Surabaya about 130km away.

A man and woman in their 60s were killed in two separate homes in the sub-district of Malang, after the eruption blanketed rooftops with debris, causing the homes to cave in. Some towns were said to be covered by 4cm of ash.

Officials raised an alert on Thursday about an hour before the volcano erupted, and urged people living in 36 villages in a 10km radius around the volcano to get out.

Mount Kelud (1731 metres) is one of some 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia and previously erupted in November 2007.

Earlier in February, Mount Sinabung in western Sumatra erupted, killing at least 16 people. Sinabung has been erupting on an almost daily basis since September, coating villages and crops with volcanic ash.

Flights cancelled

Three international airports have been closed - Jakarta, Denpasar in Bali and Phuket in Thailand - due to low visibility and fears debris could damage plane engines.

Qantas has delayed until Saturday its services to and from Sydney and Jakarta, and a spokesperson says the ash cloud has also altered flight paths from Australia to Singapore.

Virgin Australia has also cancelled flights to and from Phuket in Thailand, and Denpasar in Bali.

Air New Zealand said it has no scheduled flights to Bali.

The eruption could be seen from many towns.

The eruption could be seen from many towns. Photo: AFP