Thousands flee as Indonesian volcano bursts to life

JAKARTA (CNA) – Thousands have fled the scene of a rumbling Indonesian volcano that burst to life for the first time in several years, belching a massive column of smoke and ash, the disaster agency said yesterday.

The evacuation of more than 4,400 residents came as Mount Ili Lewotolok erupted on Sunday, spouting a thick tower of debris four km into the sky, triggering a flight warning and the closure of a local airport.

The crater’s last major eruption was in 2017.

There were no reports of injuries or damage from the eruption in a remote part of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

But authorities advised residents to wear masks to protect themselves from volcanic ash spouting from the crater in East Nusa Tenggara – the southernmost province of Indonesia – and to be alert for possible lava flows.

“To minimise the health impact from volcanic ash, it is recommended that people wear a mask or other equipment to protect their eyes and skin,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Raditya Jati said.

A two km no-go zone around the crater was also expanded to four km after Sunday’s eruption, while flights were advised to steer clear of the area as volcanic ash rained down on the local Wunopitu airport, which was temporarily closed.

Residents gather to watch as Mount Ili Lewotolok spews ash during a volcanic eruption in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara. PHOTO: AFP