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Thousands Evacuated as Indonesian Volcanoes Erupt - 2004-06-08


In Indonesia, two volcanic eruptions are threatening surrounding populations.

Mount Bromo, a popular tourist attraction on Indonesia's main island of Java, spouted a huge plume of smoke and ash, prompting the government to move to its highest alert level. Ash is raining down on towns downwind of the eruption area, and there are reports of two deaths from falling rocks. Bromo last erupted 12 years ago, but caused no casualties.

Separately, at least 5,000 people have been evacuated from the slopes of the volcano Mount Awu, on the remote northeastern island of Sangihe near the border with the Philippines.

Indonesia's volcanoes are a tourist attraction. Jacqeline Van Oejen is staying in a hotel four kilometers upwind from the Bromo. She says she felt the violent eruption for about a half-hour before it calmed down.

"When it was happening, everything was? the windows were moving, et cetera," she said. "It was quite scary at the beginning, but people here were OK, they were not panicking or anything."

She says that although her bags are packed, she intends to spend the night where she is.

Indonesia sits on the so-called "ring of fire," a fault in the earth's surface that runs round the edge of the Pacific Ocean and causes high levels of volcanic and seismic activity.

The country is home to Krakatoa, a volcano that blew in 1883. It was the largest explosion in modern history, heard hundreds of miles away. It also created a huge tidal wave that killed thousands.

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