TANAH KARO, Indonesia – An Indonesian volcano dormant for four centuries erupted for the second straight day Monday, shooting clouds of hot ash more than a mile into the air and forcing 30,000 people to flee.
Some domestic airplanes had to be diverted because of poor visibility.
Many villagers living along the slopes of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province wore masks as they packed their belongings and headed to emergency shelters, mosques and churches, said Andi Arief, a presidential adviser on disasters.
Their abandoned homes and crops were blanketed in gray soot and the air was thick with the smell of sulfur.
While two people died — a 64-year-old woman from respiratory problems and a 52-year-old man from a heart attack — it was too early to say if the volcano was to blame, said Priyadi Kardono of the National Disaster Management Agency.
Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don't know its eruption pattern and admitted over the weekend they had not monitored it closely before it started rumbling days ago in the lead-up to Sunday's first, less-powerful blast.
Hours later, the alert was raised to the highest level.
Like other volcanoes along the Sumatra fault line — the meeting point of the Eurasian and Pacific tectonic plates that have pushed against each other for millions of years — it has the potential to be very destructive.
Stiff magna forming inside the conical tip can act as a plug, allowing pressure to build up until it reaches a bursting point.