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Indonesian volcano erupts again

A volcano in Indonesia which had been quiet for four centuries has shot a new burst of hot ash around 10,000 feet in the air.

The tremor from the eruption which began on Sunday is the strongest so far. It was felt five miles away.

Mount Sinabung's eruption in North Sumatra has caught many scientists off guard and has caused the evacuation of its fertile slopes, forcing around 30,000 people to move into cramped emergency shelters in nearby towns.

Many people were returning to their mountainside homes to tend to vegetable farms, rice fields and other small businesses but a new alert was issued several hours before the latest tremor on Friday. Some have trudged back down the slopes but others have stayed.

Friday's explosion shook the entire mountain for five minutes and left the surrounding air thick with the smell of sulphur. Despite a soft drizzle, heavy smoke limited visibility to just a few yards, causing domestic flights to be diverted.

Mount Sinabung last erupted in 1600 and government vulcanologists acknowledged they had made no efforts before the mountain started rumbling last week to sample gases, look out for rising magma or other signs of seismic activity.

They are busy with the other 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a seismically charged region because of its location on the so-called Ring of Fire: a series of faultlines stretching from the western hemisphere through Japan and south-east Asia.

Surono, head of Indonesia's volcano alert centre, said: "It's still going off, even now. You can't see it because of the heavy fog around the crater but, according to our seismic recorder, there are still small eruptions."

The eruptions could be a foreshadow of a more destructive explosion in the coming weeks or months, although it is possible the mountain will go back to sleep once it lets off some steam.

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