Malang. Residents of the Pandansari village in Malang, East Java, claimed on Tuesday to have seen several animals fleeing the forest on the slopes of Mount Kelud, a supposed sign of increased volcanic activity.
"We received reports from people who claimed to see deer and other animals running out of the forest toward their house," Sakirman, a former Pandansari village chief, said, adding that the occurrence was significant since the volcano is already on a level-three alert.
Hafi Lufi, head of the Malang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), said that such an exodus was usually caused by gases rising up from the mountain.
"Smoke may have already been released, so animals have run away from the mountain," he said. "We've prepared masks and evacuation points."
Pandansari is one of three villages on high alert during a possible eruption of Kelud. The other two are Banturejo and Pagersari.
The Malang BPBD said also that six other villages around Mount Kelud could be affected: Sidodadi village and Ngantru village, both located in Ngantang subdistrict, and the villages of Pondok Agung Bayem, Kasembon and Sukosari located in Kasembon subdistrict.
Despite the level-three warning, the provincial BPBD has yet to evacuate the 32,000 residents possibly in danger.
"We don't want to make them panic," Hafi said. "The status has been raised, but the observation results haven't shown that an evacuation is urgent.
"We'll evacuate [the area] based on a recommendation made by the Center for Volcanology and Geologic Disaster Mitigation and a report from volunteers [at the volcano]."
Mount Kelud is located on the border of Blitar, Kediri and Malang. It has erupted several times in the past.
In 1919, according to the volcanology center's website, 5,110 people died after a particularly deadly discharge of Mount Kelud. A 1990 eruption claimed 34 lives, but the volcano's most recent blast, in 2007, caused no casualties after a successful evacuation plan was carried out.