Indonesian volcano eruption prompts thousands to evacuate

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Mount Lokon erupting in Indonesia
Image: Henrik Hansson.

Mount Lokon, one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, has erupted for the first time since 1991. The volcano has erupted at least three times in the space of two days.

In the immediate aftermath of the eruption, no casualties have been reported. However, 4,400 have been evacuated from the surrounding area as a result of the incident with 28,000 evacuations being recommended in total by a disaster and vulcanology relief centre, aimed at those residing within a three-and-a-half kilometre (two mile) radius of the landmark, which was created last weekend. As well as this, the centre has increased the volcano status to its peak level. According to Darwis Sitinjak, a representative of an agency involved with disasters, rescuers - assisted by police officers and soldiers - were evacuating around five hundred inhabitants of the slopes of the mountain, Sitinjak told radio station El Shinta.

Lokon, in Sulawesi, a province located in the north of the country, commenced experiencing a volcanic eruption at approximately 1530 UTC Thursday. According to National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, "[t]he eruption has set ablaze the forests around the crater". Kristianto, a volcanologist working for the government of Indonesia, has reported "no mass panic because the community has already been warned of the situation" and the evacuation of residents is ongoing, Kristianto said to Agence France-Presse. On Wednesday, two thousand other people departed from the area.

Out of the 129 volcanoes located in Indonesia, Mount Lokon is considered to be amongst the most active, standing at a peak of 1,580 metres (5,184 feet). Rocks, lava, smoke, ash and sand were thrown at a height of 1,500 metres (4,800 feet), according to Kristianto. On Friday, Lokon erupted again at around 1700 UTC on Thursday before erupting for a third time at approximately 1810 UTC the same day.