Central Indonesian volcano erupts; residents flee

July 14, 2011 - 11:29 PM
Indonesia Volcano Erupts

The glow of lava from Mount Lokon's eruption is seen against the night sky as seen from Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, early Friday, July 15, 2011. The volcano spit lava and smoke thousands of feet into the air early Friday, sending panicked residents fleeing down its slopes. There were no immediate reports of casualties. (AP Photo)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A volcano in central Indonesia spit lava and smoke thousands of feet into the air early Friday, sending panicked residents fleeing down its slopes. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The first eruption at Mount Lokon occurred at 10:46 p.m. Thursday, said Brian Rulrone, a disaster management agency official. It was followed by a second powerful blast just after midnight and a third at 1:10 a.m. Friday.

Darwis Sitinjak, another disaster official, told El Shinta radio from the scene that soldiers and police were helping rescuers evacuate about 500 people who live along the mountain's fertile slopes.

They joined 2,000 others who fled Wednesday after being warned to stay far from the 5,741-foot (1,750-meter) volcano, which has been on high alert for nearly a week, with small eruptions daily.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.

Mount Lokon, in northern Sulawesi province, is one of the country's 129 active volcanos.

Its last major eruption in 1991 killed a Swiss hiker and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.