Sunday, July 15, 2007

People flee eruption of Indonesian volcano!

Some 3,000 people have fled the slopes of an Indonesian volcano after it spewed ash, smoke and other volcanic debris.

"Up until today, some 3,000 people from eight villages on the slopes of Gamkonora have left their homes for safer grounds," said Penta Libela, the deputy district chief of West Halamahera on the island where the volcano lies.

Mount Gamkonora, about 2,700 kilometres north-east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, was placed on a level three alert on Monday, one level below the top warning which signals an imminent eruption.

Ash and smoke shot up as high as two kilometres from the peak on Monday and has since soared a kilometre into the air.

"It is not an official evacuation program," Mr Libela said.

"The population panicked because of the eruption and fled on their own and as the local government, we are merely helping by providing more vehicles and assigning temporary shelters."
Four villages, each more than 20 kilometres away from the crater, are accommodating most of the displaced.

The 1,635-metre volcano has been relatively today, Mr Libela says.

"There are small eruptions that release volcanic material, including ash, and smoke, but according to the vulcanology office, these are not serious eruptions," he said.

The ash blanketed some villages on the volcano's slopes on Monday, but Mr Libela says he could not immediately say whether the ash has rained on any other areas since then.

He says there were no reports of casualties.

Indonesia sits on the so-called "Pacific ring of fire," where continental plates meet, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity.

The archipelago nation has the world's highest number of active volcanoes.
Gamkonora has erupted 12 times, the most recently in 1987.

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