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Java volcano erupts in Indonesia, 100,000 evacuated, airports closed

Jakarta, Feb 15 (): Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes in Indonesia when a volcano erupted on most populous island of the nation, shutting down airports and sprinkling the region with grit and ash.

The eruption of Mt. Kelud in Java started late Thursday night and could be heard as far as 125 miles away, according to local news reports. It spewed debris and ash over a large area, including the city of Surabaya, about 130km (80 miles) away.

The ash cloud went up to 30km (18 miles) into the atmosphere and fell to earth in cities and towns across the region, including Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, and even distant places in Yogyakarta, where motorists switched on headlights in daylight.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said the eruptions had stopped, but the ash had spread as far as 500km (312 miles) to the west and northwest, causing more problems, especially for airlines.

Airports in Yogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya shut down due to low visibility. Fears of the debris damaging the aircraft engines also arose. The airport manager of Yogyakarta, Andi Wirson said the runway was covered in a 5cm-thick layer of ash.

As soon as the volcano eruption happened on Thursday, disaster management agency of the country asked thousands of local residents to evacuate and stay outside a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius.

The disaster agency said trembles were still experienced, but the scientists did not expect another major eruption. It said all villages within 10 kilometres (6 miles) of Kelud – more than 100,000 people had been evacuated to temporary shelters, but that the villagers in faraway places had returned to their homes to begin cleaning up.

Kelud is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia. Due to the shortage of space and fertile volcanic soil in Java, many people live close to active volcanoes. They are used to the grumbles, but their closeness to the peaks causes difficulties for authorities during such periods of disaster.