Indonesian volcano erupts

Thousands of residents evacuated from slopes of Mount Lokon in Sulawesi province

A volcano in central Indonesia has sent thousands of residents fleeing from their homes as it spit lava and ash high into the air. One woman died of a heart attack, but no other casualties were reported.

Mount Lokon, located in northern Sulawesi province, unleashed its first powerful eruption at 10:46pm on Thursday, said Brian Rulrone, a disaster management agency official. That eruption was followed by a second just after midnight and a third at 1:10am on Friday.

Lava cascaded from the mouth of the crater, triggering forest fires along its western slope, according to Ferry Rusmawan, an official at the nearest monitoring post, who said activity remained high and another eruption appeared imminent.

The 1,750m (5,741ft) mountain continued to rumble late on Friday morning.

Soldiers and police helped rescuers evacuate residents living along the mountain’s fertile slopes, said Jimmy Eman, the acting mayor in the nearby town of Tomohon. He said the only victim so far was the 56-year-old woman who died of a heart attack.

More than 6,000 people were crammed into schools, churches and other temporary shelters. Authorities said 27,000 others living within two miles (3.5km) of the crater also would be moved.

“This is the largest eruption I’ve ever experienced,” said Nelson Uada, who was among those evacuated overnight. “It was very scary. Glowing lava flowed like flames in the darkness and it sounded like we were in a war.”

Flights to the nearest international airport in Manado, the provincial capital, were not disrupted, said Lucky Podaag, an airport spokesman.

Indonesia’s vast archipelago of 240 million people is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes because it sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.

Mount Lokon, which has been on high alert for nearly a week, is one of the country’s 129 active volcanos. Its last major eruption in 1991 killed a Swiss hiker and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

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