Thousands flee as volcano erupts 8 times
A VOLCANO in western Indonesia has erupted eight times in just a few hours, "raining down rocks" over a large area and forcing thousands to flee their homes, officials said
Mount Sinabung has been erupting on and off since September, but went into overdrive on Saturday and early yesterday, repeatedly spewing out red-hot ash and rocks up to 8km into the air.
Several thousand people left their homes overnight, taking the total number of those who have fled since the volcano rumbled to life to around 12,300, said the National Agency for Disaster Management.
"People panicked last night as the eruption was accompanied by a loud thunderous sound and vibrations. Then it started raining rocks," said local government official Robert Peranginangin.
"They ran helter-skelter out of their homes and cried for help."
He added that there were no known casualties from the latest eruptions.
The volcanology agency raised the alert level for the volcano - located on the northern tip of Sumatra - to the highest point on a four-stage scale, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent or under way.
Disaster-management agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the government was calling for people living within 5km of the volcano to leave their homes.
Mount Sinabung, one of dozens of active volcanoes in Indonesia which straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the "Ring of Fire", erupted in September for the first time since 2010.
In August, five people were killed and hundreds evacuated when a volcano on a tiny island in East Nusa Tenggara erupted.