Fiery and fatal eruption in volcanic Indonesia

JAKARTA – Overcrowded Java is counting the cost of another eruption that has claimed at least 22 lives and displaced thousands of villagers living around the slopes of the 3,700-meter-high Mount Semeru, the island’s tallest peak and bookend for a long line of menacing volcanoes.

With 27 missing, the death toll is expected to rise as the latest in Indonesia’s unending natural disasters cut power supplies and destroyed a key bridge linking Lumajang, an Indian Ocean town south of Semeru, and the neighboring East Java city of Malang.

Volcanologists blamed the December 4 eruption on heavy rain, which they said caused the lip of Semeru’s crater to collapse, sending avalanches of super-heated rock and gas, known as pyroclastic flows, surging down the slopes into surrounding villages.

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