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Large eruption at Indonesia volcano

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Ash from Mount Lokom rises over Indonesian villagers' homes (AP)

Ash from Mount Lokom rises over Indonesian villagers' homes (AP)

Ash from Mount Lokom rises over Indonesian villagers' homes (AP)

A volatile volcano in central Indonesia unleashed its most powerful eruption in days, spewing hot ash and smoke high into the air and sending panicked villagers racing back to crowded government shelters.

Mount Lokon, located on northern Sulawesi island, rumbled back to life last week.

A series of blasts late on Thursday and early on Friday claimed one life - a woman who suffered a heart attack as she fled. There have been no immediate reports of casualties this time.

But Surono, a government volcanologist who uses only one name, said Sunday's 10:35am eruption was the strongest yet, shooting ash and debris 11,400 feet (3,500 metres) into the air.

Residents, thousands of whom were returning to their villages along the mountain's fertile slopes, jumped into cars and motorcycles to flee to makeshift camps near the base.

They had been warned to stay away from the crater, but officials were unable to convince them to stay away.

"We need to tend our crops and animals," said Ronald Pelealu, one of thousands of evacuees from Kinilow village.

Mount Lokon is one of about 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia. Its last major eruption in 1991 killed a Swiss hiker and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.

PA


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