Indonesia volcano traps villagers between lava flows

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 11:40 AM
Indonesia volcano traps villagers between lava flows

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian volcano Mount Karangetang spewed hot clouds of ash and trapped up to 40 people between lava flows on its slopes Friday as the government raised an alert for the peak to the highest level and evacuated villages.

Lava streamed 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) down the volcano on Siau island in North Sulawesi province and hot clouds rose 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) into the air, the head of the country's vulcanology agency said.

"We've ordered the villages to be emptied," agency chief Surono told Reuters.

The island is sparsely populated but people live near the peak where the land is fertile.

A government official in the region said three villages, of about 300 people in all, had been evacuated but 40 people were trapped between two rivers filled with lava.

It was not clear if the trapped people were still alive.

The volcano erupts frequently but Surono said the alert was raised because of the size of the hot clouds.

Indonesia, on the Pacific "ring of fire," has dozens of active volcanoes. Hot ash clouds from Mount Bromo on the main island of Java in January led several airlines to cancel flights to the tourist destination of Bali.

(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, Telly Nathalia and Enny Nuraheni; Writing by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Robert Birsel)