Indonesia’s Mount Barujari erupts: Rescuers dispatched to evacuate 400 hikers

Columns of ash and smoke were shot 2 kilometres into the sky over Lombok island.

Mount Barujari, located inside Mount Rinjani volcano, is seen erupting from Bayan district, North Lombok, Indonesia on September 27, 2016. Antara Foto / Santanu Bendesa / via Reuters
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Jakarta // Rescuers in Indonesia were dispatched on Wednesday to evacuate nearly 400 tourists, most of them foreigners, after a volcano erupted at one of the country’s most popular hiking destinations, an official said.

Mount Barujari began erupting late on Tuesday afternoon, sending columns of ash and smoke shooting 2 kilometres into the sky over Lombok island, a tourist hotspot to the immediate east of Bali.

Nearly 400 people were recorded as hiking near Barujari - a smaller cone within the crater of Mount Rinjani - when it began erupting, prompting plans for their immediate evacuation, said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

“A rescue team has been sent to Mount Rinjani to evacuate the tourists. They set off on Wednesday morning,” he said.

Hikers have been told to keep at least 3km from the smouldering volcano, a key attraction on the multi-day trek to the summit of Mount Rinjani made by thousands of tourists every year.

Mr Nugroho said 389 hikers were recorded as having entered the national park since Sunday, the overwhelming majority of them foreigners.

While most would have taken the official route to the summit, rescue teams suspected some hikers may have gone off-piste, Nugroho added.

The threat level of the volcano was upgraded on Tuesday as Barujari sent plumes of smoke and hot ash into the atmosphere, but remains two steps from the highest-risk category.

There were no flight disturbances recorded on Wednesday due to the ash clouds, transport ministry spokesman Hemi Pramuraharjo told AFP.

Some flights to and from the nearby resort island of Bali were cancelled overnight, but Lombok’s international airport remains unaffected.

Flight disruptions due to drifting ash clouds are not uncommon in Indonesia, which sits on a belt of seismic activity known as the Pacific Ring of Fire and is home to 130 active volcanoes.

An eruption at Mount Rinjani last month forced the closure of Lombok airport and disrupted some flights to neighbouring Bali.