Hundreds Flee as Flores Volcano Erupts

Flores VolcanoDENPASAR ~ Hundreds of people have fled their homes after a volcano on the island of Flores, east of Bali, erupted spewing ash and smoke thousands of meters into the air, authorities said.

Breathing masks and clean water have been rushed to the eastern island of Flores where the 1,703-metre-high Mount Egon erupted late on Tuesday, they said.

The vulcanology office said on Wednesday that 600 people from a village near the crater had been evacuated, but a local official said 23,000 were living in the danger zone.

“There are more than 23,000 people in three subdistricts within the danger zone,” Robert Rai said.

“Initial contacts with the heads of the subdistricts said that many people panicked yesterday evening because the eruption was preceded by earthquakes. But there are no figures available yet (on numbers of evacuated).

“For the time being, we have sent masks and clean water.”

Authorities were thrown into confusion by the eruption, which came at around 10:15pm as they prepared for district elections Wednesday.

The vulcanology office said a team was already on site to monitor the volcano’s activity, and that no deaths had been reported.

The Indonesian archipelago sits on the the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where continental plates collide, and is home to about 130 active volcanoes.

Meanwhile, authorities raised the alert level on a volcano near the country’s third largest city, the state volcanology office said on Thursday.

“Since April 16, 2008, at 12:00am, we have upgraded the alert level of (Mount) Papandayan to ‘vigilance’ (level two),” a statement on the volcanology office’s website said.

The alert level for the mountain, near the city of Bandung, is now two rungs below that for an impending eruption.

Papandayan rises 2,665 meters above sea level and is 51 kilometers southeast of Bandung city, which has a population of three million, while the greater Bandung area is home to about 4.5 million.

The mountain had not shown visual signs of activity but measuring equipment indicated an increased frequency of shallow volcanic quakes, the office said, adding that magma in the crater was also increasing steadily.

The office recommended an area within a radius of one kilometer from the crater be closed to the public.

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