Indonesian volcano erupts, forcing residents to flee

Local airport closed as Mount Ili Lewotolok erupts in a remote part of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

An eruption of Mount Ili Lewotolok in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia [Aken Udjan/Antara Foto/Reuters]

Indonesia’s Mount Ili Lewotolok has erupted, belching a column of smoke and ash 4km (2.5 miles) into the sky, triggering a flight warning and the closure of the local airport.

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

Indonesia has nearly 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country, and while many show high levels of activity it can be weeks or even months before an eruption.

Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency, said in a statement that the eruption from the Mount Ili Lewotolok volcano – in the northern part of Lembata Island, Lembata Regency, East Nusa Tenggara Province, about 2,600km (1,615 miles) east of Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta – had caused panic among those living nearby.

About 2,780 people from 26 villages had sought refuge, although no casualties have so far been reported, Jati said.

Muhammad Ilham, a 17-year-old who witnessed the eruption, told Reuters news agency that residents nearby were “panicked and they’re still looking for refuge and in need of money right now”.

Mount Ili Lewotolok belched a column of smoke and ash 4km high [Joy Christian/AFP]

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said on its website that the area near the volcano is likely to be inundated with “hot clouds, lava stream, lava avalanche, and poisonous gas”.

Pak Kasbani, the head of the centre, told Reuters that the status of the volcano was raised to the second-highest level on Indonesia’s four-tier alert system due to “increasing threats”.

There are only three other volcanoes at this level, the agency said.

These include the Merapi volcano on the island of Java and Sinabung on Sumatra, which erupted this month.

In late 2018, a volcano in the strait between Java and Sumatra islands erupted, causing an underwater landslide that unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.

Source: News Agencies