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Indonesian Volcano Erupts, No Damage Caused


A volcano on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has erupted, spewing a column of smoke and ash high into the air. But, officials say the activity at Mount Soputan does not present a threat to people living nearby. Meanwhile, villagers near Mount Kelud on Java island remain on alert for an eruption there. Trish Anderton reports from Jakarta.

All eyes have been on Java's Mount Kelud for the past two weeks, but it was Mount Soputan on the northern tip of Sulawesi that blew its top instead. Authorities say the volcano shot ash a thousand meters into the air, but no lava flowed from the mountain. Authorities say they are not planning to order an evacuation.

Agus Budianto of Indonesia's Centre for Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation says his agency is advising people to avoid breathing the ash directly.

"I think it is not so dangerous right now but we recommend for the population to use a mask, if possible," he said.

The nearest village to Soputan is a relatively distant 11 kilometers from the peak. Some of Java's most dangerous volcanoes, including Mount Kelud, have populations much closer to their craters.

Budianto says scientists are continuing to monitor Soputan, but they do not expect a larger eruption.

"If the volcanic tremors happen continuously perhaps the eruption will occur," he said. "But there are no indications for that."

Meanwhile, authorities are keeping a close watch on Kelud, where a high alert has been in effect for several days. Local authorities have ordered more than 100,000 people evacuated from a 10-kilometer radius of the crater. But some residents are defying the order, saying they cannot leave their homes and farms unattended. About 5,000 people were killed when the volcano erupted in 1919.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common in Indonesia, which is located in a geologically active area known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

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