19 May 2024

Mt Ibu eruption forces evacuation of seven Indonesian villages

6:28 pm on 19 May 2024
Mount Ibu spewing volcanic ash as lightning strikes, as seen from the monitoring post in Indonesia's West Halmahera, North Maluku, on 18 May, 2024.

Mount Ibu spewing volcanic ash as lightning strikes, seen from a monitoring post on Indonesia's West Halmahera, on 18 May, 2024. Photo: AFP/ Indonesia Geological Agency handout

A volcano on the remote Indonesian island of Halmahera has spectacularly erupted, spewing a grey ash cloud into the sky, and people from seven nearby villages have been evacuated, authorities said on Sunday.

Mount Ibu erupted on Saturday evening, sending ash 4km high, as streaks of purple lightning flashed around its crater, according to information and images shared by Indonesia's volcanology agency.

A joint team comprised of police, military and search and rescue officials was dispatched to the area to evacuate residents from surrounding villages, the disaster mitigation agency's Abdul Muhari said in a statement.

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Photos shared by the disaster agency showed authorities assisting the elderly, while other residents were moved in pick-up trucks and accommodated in emergency tents for the night.

The agency did not provide any information about how many people had been moved, but authorities have recommended that a seven-km radius be cleared.

Indonesia's volcanology agency raised the alert level of the volcano to the highest level on Thursday, after Ibu erupted multiple times earlier this month.

Ibu's activities follow a series of eruptions of different volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has 127 active volcanoes.

Flash floods and cold lava flow from Mount Marapi, one of the most active in West Sumatra province, covered several nearby districts following torrential rain on 11 May, killing more than 60 people.

In recent weeks, North Sulawesi's Ruang volcano has also erupted, spewing incandescent lava. The eruption prompted authorities to evacuate more than 12,000 people on a nearby island.

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