Indonesia’s most volatile volcano has spewed ash and hot gas into the sky in a massive column six kilometres (3.7 miles) high.

Several villages on the main island of Java were blanketed by clouds of ash from Mount Merapi on Sunday.

Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre did not raise Merapi’s alert status, which was already at the third-highest level since it began erupting last August.

Villagers living on Merapi’s fertile slopes have been advised to stay three kilometres (1.8 miles) from the crater’s mouth and should be aware of the peril of lava, the agency said.

The 2,968-metre (9,737-foot) mountain is the most active of 500 Indonesian volcanoes and has been rumbling and generating dark hot clouds since last year.

Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 353 people.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines around the ocean.

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