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Indonesia: Thousands evacuated as volcano erupts

November 30, 2020

Thousands of Indonesians have been forced to flee as Mount Ili Lewotolok pumps ash and noxious gas into the air. The volcano is one of three to erupt recently, prompting panic among local residents.

Indonesia's Mount Ili Lewotolok erupting agains the night sky
Image: Aken Udjan/Antara Foto/REUTERS

Indonesia's Mount Ili Lewotolok erupted on Sunday sending 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of ash and smoke up into the air and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, the country's Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

More than 2,700 people were evacuated from 28 villages on the slopes of the volcano, which is located on the eastern island of Lembata in the East Nusa Tenggara province.

Read more: Volcanic eruptions can cool the planet

Muhammad Ilhan, a 17-year-old who saw the eruption, told Reuters that local residents were "panicked and they're still looking for refuge an in need of money right now."

Despite the panic among locals, there were no reports of deaths or injuries following the eruption.

Threat level raised

The local airport closed as ash continued to fall across parts of the island. The Transportation Ministry also issued a flight warning for the region.

What causes volcanic eruptions?

Authorities from the country's Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center raised the level of alert in the area from three to four — the second-highest — and recommended the use of masks in order to protect the eyes and skin from the damaging effects of the ash.

They also warned residents to stay 4 kilometers away from the volcanic crater as the area was likely inundated with "hot clouds, lava stream, lava avalanche, and poisonous gas."

'Ring of fire'

The 5,423 meter Mount Ili Lewotolok is the third volcano to erupt in recent months following the Merapi volcano on the island of Java and the Sinabung volcano on Sumatra.

Indonesia has 400 volcanoes across its 17,000 islands. There are 129 active volcanoes, of which some 65 are classified as dangerous.

The archipelago nation lies on the so-called "Ring of Fire" — a series of volcanoes and fault lines along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

ab/rs (AP, EFE, Reuters)