Photos: What it looks like when a volcano sends ash 55,000 feet into the air

After weeks of rumbling, Mount Kelud erupted on the Indonesian island of Java late last night, sending plumes of smoke and hot ash tens of thousands of feet into the air (55,700 feet, to be precise). As of this morning, the volcano had killed three people and dislocated as many as 100,000, according to CNN. The current evacuation zone covers a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) radius including 36 villages.

Seven airports in the eastern and central parts of the island have been shut down because the volcanic ash swirling in the air poses a danger to airplane engines. Flights to and from nearby Australia have been forced to reschedule due to the smoke. The cloud is traveling west, and appears poised to blanket other parts of Java, including Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. Reuters has a useful graphic that shows the reach of the ash cloud:

Volcano ash path

The eruption is the second this month in the country, which sits on a series of geological fault lines. The eruption of Mount Sinabung, which is located on the island of Sumatra, forced the evacuation of at least 20,000 people.

Java is home to some 140 million people. Many of its cities and towns—especially those in the central part of the island, nearest to Mount Kelud—are covered in thick, grey, ash, as these pictures show. The ash and dust could cause respiratory respiratory and lung diseases, the Jakarta Globe reports.

Mount Kelud erups, as seen from Mbalak village in Blitar  East Java, Indonesia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Volcanic ash from a major eruption in Indonesia shrouded a large swath of the country's most densely populated island on Friday, closed three international airports and sent thousands fleeing. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)
Mount Kelud erupting, as seen from Mbalak village in Blitar East Java, Indonesia this morning. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)
Airplane covered in ash
With planes and airports shrouded in smoke, local air travel has mostly been grounded. (Reuters/Dwi Oblo)
ash-covered town
The ash has turned entire towns grey. Here, a housing complex in Yogyakarta is covered. (Reuters/Dwi Oblo)
Volcano Indonesia
Some are still intent on getting around despite the blanket of ash. Here, a man wears a mask as he rides a becak, a kind of rickshaw, on a road covered with ash from Mount Kelud. (Reuters/Dwi Oblo)
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