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Sumatran volcano spews fatal ash clouds

Indonesia's reawakened volcano Sinabung has spewed lava and hot gas, killing at least 11 people, including four pupils who were reportedly on a sightseeing visit. Villagers had returned home during an apparent lull.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said scorching ash clouds engulfed eight people on Saturday in Sukameriah village, near Mount Sinabung on the western island of Sumatra. Officials fear there could be more fatalities.

"It is likely we'll find more victims," local pastor Benny Kaban told the German news agency DPA.

Survivor Ulya Ginting told Metro TV that many people were ascending the volcano to check their homes and farms when Saturday's eruption occurred.

"They should not have been in that area," said Asren Nasution, the head of the local disaster management agency. "It has been off-limits to residents."

Most of the victims reportedly died in a village less than 3 kilometers from Sinabung's peak.

Exclusion zone

Last month, authorities extended the exclusion zone from 5 to 7 kilometers, but on Friday, the NDMA said residents living in 16 villages further than 5 kilometers from the peak were allowed to return to their homes after a lull in Sinabung's activity.

Sinabung, located in northern Sumatra's Karo district, began erupting in September, displacing more than 30,000 residents. It had been dormant for 400 years until it

first erupted in 2010.

It had shown reduced activity since mid-January.

Another agency spokesman, Purvo Nugroho, said four of those killed were high school students on a sightseeing trip.

"We suspect there are more victims but we cannot recover them because the victims are in the path of the hot [ash] clouds.

District official Johnson Tarigan said three other people were being treated for burns in a local hospital.

'Ring of Fire'

Sinabung is one of nearly 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which lies along the "Ring of Fire" volcanic belt around the Pacific Ocean.

In 2010, Mount Merapi erupted on Java, leaving more than 350 people dead and 150,000 displaced.

ipj/jr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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