A rumbling volcano in western Indonesia that has been spewing lava and clouds of gas high into the sky has let out a new, powerful burst, prompting warnings for airplanes and triggering panic among villagers, officials said. Nine eruptions have sent lava and searing gas tumbling out of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province, said Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency spokesman. The volcano started spitting clouds of gas and lava as high as 23,000 feet in the air late yesterday, but no casualties were reported.
The spokesman said more than 19,000 people have been evacuated from villages in a danger zone three miles around the crater to temporary shelters since authorities raised the alert status for Sinabung to the highest level in November. Gray ash covered villages, farms, and trees as far as 43 miles southeast of the mountain. The 8,530-foot Mount Sinabung has sporadically erupted since September. An eruption in 2010 killed two people and caught scientists off guard because the volcano had been quiet for four centuries. (Read more volcano stories.)