At least three people were killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes when a volcano erupted on Indonesia’s most populous island, shutting down airports and showering the region with ash and grit.
The eruption of Mt. Kelud in Java began late Thursday night and could be heard as far as 125 miles away, according to local news reports.
“The eruption sounded like thousands of bombs exploding,” Ratno Pramono, a 35-year-old farmer from the nearby village of Sugihwaras, told the Associated Press. “I thought doomsday was upon us. Women and children were screaming and crying.”
Thick layers of ash and debris blanketed the region, causing roofs to collapse under the weight.
A 70-year-old man was killed when a wall tumbled down while he was waiting to be evacuated from the village of Pandasari, Indonesia’s disaster management agency reported. A 60-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man were also killed in the same village, according to the agency.
Seven airports were reported closed due to reduced visibility and the dangers posed to the aircraft by the ash. Those shut included the international airport in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.
Authorities had urged more than 100,000 people living within six miles of Mt. Kelud to evacuate. But by Friday evening, some had returned to their homes to begin clearing away debris, according to the disaster management agency, which put the number displaced at more than 76,000.
Mt. Kelud is one of about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits atop one of the most seismically active zones in the world, known as the Ring of Fire.
Earlier this month, Mt. Sinabung erupted in Sumatra, killing at least 16 people a day after authorities had allowed thousands of evacuated villagers to return to its slopes.