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Indonesians leave homes near erupting volcano, airport closes: NPR

In this photo released by the Sitaro Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD Sitaro), hot molten lava glows at the crater of Mount Ruang during its eruption in Sanguine Islands, Indonesia, Wednesday, April 17 2024.

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In this photo released by the Sitaro Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD Sitaro), hot molten lava glows at the crater of Mount Ruang during its eruption in Sanguine Islands, Indonesia, Wednesday, April 17 2024.

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MANADO, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities closed an airport Thursday and residents left their homes near an erupting volcano due to the dangers of spreading ash, falling rocks, hot volcanic clouds and the possibility of a tsunami.

Mount Ruang, on the northern coast of Sulawesi island, experienced at least five large eruptions on Wednesday, prompting the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation to issue its highest alert level, indicating an active eruption.

The crater emitted white-gray smoke continuously throughout the day Thursday, reaching more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) above the summit.

People were ordered to stay at least 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) away from the 725-meter (2,378-foot) mountain. More than 11,000 people live in the affected area and have been ordered to leave. At least 800 have done so.

An international airport in the city of Manado was temporarily closed on Thursday due to the release of volcanic ash into the air.

“We have to close flight operations at Sam Ratulangi Airport due to spreading volcanic ash, which could endanger flight safety,” said Ambar Suryoko, head of the regional airport authority.

The volcanology center noted that risks from the volcanic eruption include the possibility that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami. Tagulandang Island, east of the volcano, could be in danger if that happened, and its residents were among those asked to evacuate.

“People who live in the Tagulandang Island area and are within a 6-kilometer radius should be immediately evacuated to a safe place outside the 6-kilometer radius, and especially those living near the coast should be aware of the potential for incandescent rocks “Hot clouds and tsunami waves could be triggered by the collapse of a volcanic body into the sea,” Abdul Muhari, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

The agency said the residents will be transferred to Manado, the nearest town, on the island of Sulawesi, a six-hour boat trip.

Volcanic eruptions have triggered tsunamis in Indonesia before, including an eruption of Mount Ruang in 1871 and the eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano in 2018. Parts of Anak Krakatau mountain fell into the ocean, causing a tsunami along the coasts of Sumatra and the islands of Java, killing 430 people.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million inhabitants, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it lies along the “Ring of Fire,” a series of horseshoe-shaped seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.

NPR News

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