Volcano erupts, earthquake rocks in Indonesia

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A volcano erupted in central Indonesia today, shooting plumes of white smoke and sand nearly 5,000 feet into the air, an official said. There were no immediate reports of injuries following the blast at Mount Soputan, located on Sulawesi island, said Sandy Manengke, a local monitoring official, noting that residents living near the crater had been evacuated beforehand. Meanwhile, a strong earthquake has hit the Indian Ocean off Indonesia’s Sumatra Island but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. Authorities briefly issued a tsunami warning, but the feared wave never came and the tsunami alert was lifted.

Volcanic ash covered villages along the slopes of the 5,800-foot Mount Soputan. People living as far as 12 miles from the crater said they felt the heat after the eruption. Some were wearing face masks to protect themselves against the heavy smoke and dust. Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other nation because of its location on the Pacific ”Ring of Fire” — a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia. Mount Soputan is 1,350 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta.

The US Geological Survey said the quake that hit the Indian Ocean had a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 and struck 135 km west of the city of Bengkulu, jolting people from their sleep and sending them fleeing by car and foot early today. The quake’s epicenter was 30 km beneath the ocean floor. Local radio reported residents in Bengkulu fleeing their homes with their families and belongings after the quake hit at about 0400 local time. An official from the Honolulu-based US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said that his agency had told the Indonesian government of a possible small and localised tsunami but did not yet know if the quake had triggered a tsunami.

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