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Indonesia shifts hundreds living near erupting volcano

Volcanic activity intensifies in eastern Indonesia, leading to the highest alert status and evacuation of locals
A mosque is seen past mud and debris following deadly flash floods and cold lava flow in Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, on May 13.

A mosque is seen past mud and debris following deadly flash floods and cold lava flow in Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, on May 13. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 17, 2024 05:18 AM GMT
Updated: May 17, 2024 05:22 AM GMT

Hundreds of people living near an erupting volcano in eastern Indonesia have been evacuated after authorities raised its alert status to the highest level, an official said on May 17.

Authorities raised the alert status for Mount Ibu, located on remote Halmahera island, to the highest level of a four-tiered system on May 16 after recording two huge eruptions for the second day in a row.

Residents in seven villages near Ibu -- which spewed ash and smoke 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) into the sky -- began evacuating to several shelters late May 16 after authorities raised the alert status, local disaster mitigation agency official Muhammad Ade Fabanyo told AFP.

"Until today, the evacuees continue to arrive and as of this morning, the preliminary data that we have is around 400 people (evacuated)," Ade said on May 17.

He said the evacuation was a "preventive" measure taken by authorities since the residents were living around seven kilometers (4.3 miles) from the volcano -- within the exclusion zone set by officials.

Ibu erupted again on May 17 morning, spewing a tower of volcanic ash 4,000 meters above its peak, the country's geology agency head Muhammad Wafid said in a statement.

Authorities advised residents and tourists to stay out of the four-to-seven-kilometre exclusion zone and to wear a face mask in case of falling ash.

Ibu is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, erupting more than 21,000 times last year.

More than 700,000 people lived on Halmahera island as of 2022, according to official figures.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation, experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire".

Last month, Mount Ruang in North Sulawesi province erupted more than half a dozen times, forcing thousands of residents of nearby islands to evacuate.

Its status has since been lowered to the second-highest alert level.

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