1000’s Flee Indonesian Volcano

Mount Gamalama has erupted and spewed lava and ash on a town in eastern Indonesia, prompting thousands of residents to flee.

There were no immediate reports of casualties after the 1,715-metre volcano, which forms the entire island of Ternate, first erupted late on Sunday.

Ternate City residents grabbed warm clothing before fleeing their houses, with many taking refuge at the local governor’s house.

“We advised residents to use masks and the local authority to close the airport until everything is normalised,” Surono, the head of Indonesia’s centre of vulcanology and geological disaster mitigation, said.

He says many residents are returning to their homes, although authorities are keeping the volcano at the second highest level of alert.

Transport ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan says the eruption has forced the local airport at the foot of the volcano to close.

“It’s a safety measure. The volcanic ash may pose a risk to planes,” he said.

“If there is no more eruption, the airport may be opened tomorrow.”

A scientist monitoring the volcano, Darno Lamane, says the eruption has caused panic on the island.

“It shot ash and dust particles 2,000 metres into the sky. There were no reports of casualties or injuries but people did panic for a while, screaming as they ran out of their homes,” he said.

“The situation has calmed and many residents have gone back home. We will continue to monitor the volcanic activity.”

Mr Lamane says the volcano last erupted in 2003, with no fatalities recorded.

The volcano has clove groves on its foothills, one of the spices that led the Portuguese and Dutch to settle there several centuries ago, and Ternate City is the business centre for an island group now becoming known for nickel mining.

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