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Indonesia's Merapi volcano erupts, spews hot clouds

Indonesia's Mount Merapi has erupted with avalanches of searing gas clouds and lava, forcing authorities to halt tourism and mining activities on the slopes of the country's most active volcano.

Merapi, on the densely populated island of Java, unleashed clouds of hot ash and a mixture of rock, lava and gas that travelled up to 7km down its slopes.

A column of hot clouds rose 100 metres into the air, the National Disaster Management Agency's spokesman Abdul Muhari said.

The eruption throughout Saturday blocked out the sun and blanketed several villages with falling ash.

No casualties have been reported.

It was Merapi's biggest lava flow since authorities raised the alert level to the second-highest in November 2020, Hanik Humaida, the head of Yogyakarta's Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre, said.

She said residents living on Merapi's slopes were advised to stay 7km away from the crater's mouth and be aware of the danger posed by lava.

Tourism and mining activities were halted.

The 2968-metre mountain is about 30km from Yogyakarta, an ancient centre of Javanese culture and the seat of royal dynasties going back centuries.

About a quarter million people live within 10km of the volcano.

Merapi is the most active of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has repeatedly erupted with lava and gas clouds recently.

Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people and displaced 20,000 villagers.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.

An eruption in December 2021 of Mount Semeru, the highest volcano on Java island, left 48 people dead and 36 missing.