Indonesian volcano spews ash and lava briefly in its 1st eruption in 400 years

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Volcano quiet for 400 years erupts in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A volcano in western Indonesia spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky in its first eruption in 400 years.

The eruption of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province sent sand and ash up to a mile (1.5 kilometers) high but lava only moved near the crater, said government volcanologist Surono, who uses only one name.

The rumbling started a few days ago and the minor eruption early Sunday morning had mostly stopped. It caused no major damage and “only dust covered plants and trees,” he said.

He said Mount Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don’t know the volcano’s eruption pattern and are monitoring it closely for more activity.

Evacuations on the volcano’s slopes started Friday at the first signs of activity. Up to 10,000 people who fled are staying in government buildings, houses of worship and other evacuation centers in two nearby towns.

The government has distributed 7,000 masks to refugees and set up public kitchens so people can cook food, said Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is on the so-called “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

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