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Indonesian volcano erupts more than 50 times

Authorities extend danger zone around Mount Sinabung, where eruptions have forced evacuation of more than 20,000 people.

Last updated: 05 Jan 2014 03:21
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Officials have tried to increase shelter space to accommodate the growing number of evacuees [EPA]

Indonesian authorities have extended a danger zone around a rumbling volcano in the country's west after it erupted more than 50 times, spewing blistering gas farther than expected.

The eruptions on Saturday sent searing lava streaming out of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province and down the southeastern slopes up to 5km away.

"This outpour is the biggest we've seen in all the recent eruptions," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

This outpour is the biggest we've seen in all the recent eruptions.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, National Disaster Mitigation Agency

The volcano's danger zone to the southeast was extended to seven kilometres from five.

On Sunday, the volcano was still spitting clouds of gas and lava as high as 4,000 metres, but no casualties were reported.

Sinabung, the province's highest volcano, has been erupting relentlessly since September.

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from nearby villages and brought into temporary shelters.

"Of course we are worried about our houses, villages and also our farms that are damaged, but we cannot do anything here," said Purnama Surbakti, who owns a house at the slope of the volcano.

New shelters

The local government and Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency have tried to increase shelter space to accommodate the growing number of evacuees.

"We are providing new places for them, but they prefer to stay with their relatives, neighbours and also close friends. We have provided 11 new temporary shelters for them already," said Prince Meyer Putong, head of the emergency response team.

Sinabung is one of nearly 130 active volcanoes in the world's fourth-most populated country, straddling major tectonic fault lines known as the Ring of Fire.

The most deadly eruption in recent years was of Mount Merapi in 2010, near the densely populated city of Yogyakarta in central Java. More than 350 people were killed.

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