National Geographic News
A photo of a housing complex covered in ash.

This housing complex in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was covered with ash by an eruption from Mount Kelud on February 14, 2014.


Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic

Published February 14, 2014

An explosive nighttime volcano eruption on February 13 caused chaos on Indonesia's most populous island, covering cities with ash and killing three people.

Mount Kelud, long known for its powerful eruptions, blasted ash and debris 12 miles into the air. Authorities on the Indonesian island of Java, where the volcano is located, evacuated 100,000 people and closed six airports in the eastern part of the island.

According to Indonesia's disaster agency, the eruption could be heard up to 125 miles (200 kilometers) away.

"I thought doomsday was upon us," Ratno Pramono, a 35-year-old farmer from the nearby village of Sugihwaras, told the Associated Press. "Women and children were screaming and crying."

Mount Kelud's eruption sent volcanic ash over an area 310 miles (500 kilometers) in diameter, covering roughly a third of Java, from Malang to Yogyakarta in central Java.

A few inches of ash fell on Indonesia's second biggest city, Surabaya, a major industrial center about 87 miles (140 kilometers) north of Mount Kelud. About three million people live in Surabaya.

A Reuters map of the a volcanic eruption.
This map from Reuters shows the location of Mount Kelud and dispersal of ash from the volcano.

About two inches of ash also fell on Yogyakarta, another major city, where motorists were forced to switch their headlights on during the day because the dust was so thick.

A 60-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman died in the village of Pandansari, near the volcano, after up to eight inches of ash caused the roofs of their homes to collapse, says Indonesia's disaster agency. A 70-year-old man died in the same village after a wall collapsed under the weight of the ash.

A photo of a man driving a rickshaw.
A man wears a mask as he rides a becak, a kind of rickshaw, on a road covered with ash from Mount Kelud in Yogyakarta on February 14, 2014.

Surabaya's international airport and smaller airports in Yogyakarta, Solo, Bandung, Semarang, and Cilacap closed due to loss of visibility and the threat that ash can pose to airplanes.

The closures evoked memories of spring 2010, when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland erupted, grounding airplanes in 18 countries and affecting more than 100,000 travelers.

All villages within six miles of Mount Kelud--representing some 100,000 people--were evacuated to temporary shelters, although some people had already started returning by Friday morning, reports the Associated Press.

Indonesia officials say they do not expect another major eruption from Mount Kelud any time soon.

A photo of a person cleaning ash.
A resident clears volcanic ash off the road in Kediri in East Java Province on February 14.

Kelud is one of hundreds of volcanoes along the vast Pacific Rim of Fire, a region of intense geologic activity, thanks to the colliding of massive tectonic plates. A stratovolcano with a height of 5,675 feet (1,730 meters), Kelud is thought to have erupted more than 30 times since the year 1000.

An eruption at Mount Kelud killed an estimated 5,000 people on May 19, 1919, largely through hot mudflows called lahars, according to the Natural Disasters Association.

Eruptions in 1951, 1966, and 1990 killed a total of 250 people, according to the AP.

A photo of a soldier evacuating residents.
Indonesian soldiers evacuate people in Malang, a city in East Java Province, moments after Mount Kelud's eruption.

After the 1966 eruption, tunnels were built on the southwestern side of the crater to drain the volcano's crater lake, in order to reduce the risk of mudflows, the AP reported.

In February 1990, a powerful eruption at Mount Kelud released a column of ash and debris four miles (seven kilometers) high.

It also released pyroclastic flows, a mix of gas, ash, fine particles, and blocks of pumice that can be as large as basketballs, all at temperatures up to 1,830°F (1,000°C).

A photo of an airplane covered in ash.
Volcanic ash covers planes at the airport in Yogyakarta about 124 miles (200 kilometers) west of the Mount Kelud volcano.

Health experts are recommending that people in the region avoid breathing in the volcanic ash. It can cause severe irritation to the lungs and can aggravate asthma or other respiratory conditions, they note.

Volcanic ash can also cause skin and eye irritations.

A photo of a cloud of ash rising from the volcano.
The eruption of Mount Kelud can be seen from Sugih Waras village on February 14.
Srinivas R.
Srinivas R.

About a week back, many residents of Bangalore, India,  found Black stringy ash on their roof tops, everyone presumed it had flown from the dry agricultural fields being burnt - it resembled burnt hay. But the phenomena was also seen widely across South India and a few local TV channels reported it. I do believe it came from the high-level ash cloud that dispersed westwards from over 5 - 7 kms high ...

Linda Carr
Linda Carr

Why do people live in areas where they know things like this can happen. Doesn't make sense to me.

Andrew Yonathan
Andrew Yonathan

I live in Malang, we don't get much of the effect. but the peoples on the southwestern part of Mt.Kelud do get most of the disaster effect and aftereffect.

the aftereffect starts on the day the mountain erupt and continues on the days after that. They didn't get enough mask and then inhaled the volcanic ash that cause diseases. We do need more paramedic and rations.

J. Say
J. Say

Praying for everybody's safety.

anna jayanti
anna jayanti

Peace, Prayers and Blessings,, for Indonesia 

evan akbar
evan akbar

Kelud has a short period of eruption. Within 9-25 years from now, it will erupt again. Last eruptions happened in 1990 and 2007. Kelud also known as "the sweeper of civilizations since it has destroyed (and cause another to rise) many great kingdom in Java since 300 AD.

Daniel Cassidy
Daniel Cassidy

pray that everyone will get through this and continue on with awareness sad that 3 people had to die but atleast it wasnt a 1000

Helmi Airan
Helmi Airan

I'm now living in Malang town, and luckily for anyone living here, we all don't get affected by the eruption yet even though it is located so close to the mountain. I'm truly upset by this news that many people are forced to evacuate leaving their houses and livestocks. We all PRAY FOR KELUD...!!

ramdi hidayat
ramdi hidayat

issued by the mountain ash is extraordinary kelud
my house is also filled with volcanic ash from kelud
we can take a lesson from this natural disaster

Roger Bird
Roger Bird

The volcanic ash that is making these people's lives difficult will as the decades pass be a huge blessing for them and their descendants thanks to the nutrients in the ash, particularly but not limited to the sulfur.

Shofiyati Karimah
Shofiyati Karimah

@Linda Carr  thing like this could occur in almost all area in Indonesia. I live in Yogyakarta. It's so far from Mt. Kelud but you could see from the picture, we got lots of volcanic ash. It need 4 days more to clean the volcanic ash from our house, road, etc. Besides that, there is Mt. Merapi too that always "keep on eye" to us :D

Bob Vos
Bob Vos

@Helene Lopes  Whoh! that is the first thing that comes up in your mind? shame on you for that, and besides that shame on you for not noticing the ash cloud is drifting west and would have to make incredibly weird manoeuvres to get to the United States. As long as it doesn't hit the US and no knowledge of topography outside of your own country, bleh! despicable attitude.

Aya Pamungkas
Aya Pamungkas

@Helene Lopes  no, I don't think it will. now the volcano seems to be calmed down after the major explosive eruption. and the ash rain had stopped from 2 days ago here in Yogyakarta which is about 200 km away. So, I don't think the ash will ever reach the US since it's so far away. Don't worry :)


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