The eruption of Mount Sinabung on the Indonesian island of Sumatra is threatening to further disrupt air travel in the region after spewing columns of ash five kilometres into the atmosphere.
Areas around the crater of the volcano, located about 1900km northwest of the capital Jakarta, have been off-limits for several years because of frequent volcanic activity.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency said there were no fatalities or injuries from the eruption on Monday (local time).
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin issued maps on Monday showing an ash cloud heading in three directions from Sinabung, to the north, northwest and south-southeast.
Indonesia also upgraded its Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation to red, its highest warning, and said the ash-cloud top had reached 23,872 feet (7276 metres), according to a ground observer.
Sinabung is about 75km southwest of Kualanamu International Airport in Medan.
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) February 19, 2018
Nur Isnin Istianto, head of the regional airport authority, said Kutacane airport in Aceh province had been closed, but the wind direction allowed the airport of Kualanamu, Meulaboh and Silangit to remain open.
The volcano, one of three currently erupting in Indonesia, was dormant for four centuries before exploding in 2010, killing two people.
Another eruption, in 2014, killed 16 people, while seven died in a 2016 eruption.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said hot ash clouds travelled as far as 4.9 kilometres south.
He said the eruption began on Monday morning, accompanied by multiple earthquakes and showering surrounding villages with small rocks.
“In five districts it became dark with a visibility of about 5 metres,” he said in a statement.
Mount Sinabung is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia and is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
More than 400 flights were cancelled in November after Bali’s main airport was closed amid warnings of a potential volcanic eruption at Mount Agung.