08/12/2013, 00.00
INDONESIA

East Nusa Tenggara: volcanic eruption kills six, displaces thousands

Mathias Hariyadi
Mount Rokatenda continues to spew gas and lava. The dead (including two children) were surprised in their sleep. No significant reduction in the activity, expert warn, as the authorities remain on high alert. An earthquake is reported in eastern Indonesia; no tsunami warning issued.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Paluweh volcano (Mount Rokatenda) on Palu'e Island continues to spew lava and ashes, after erupting again last Saturday killing six, including two children whose bodies have not yet been recovered.

The volcano is located on an island in a remote area of eastern Indonesia and is difficult to reach-four hours by boat from the main island of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, which is the only Indonesian province with a Catholic majority in the world's most populous Muslim country.

The victims died in their sleep as ashes covered their temporary shelter on a beach in the village of Rokirole, Palu'e Island.

The thousands who have been displaced are waiting for the authorities to allow them to return home once the eruption stops. Meanwhile, the volcano continues to spew clouds of gas and dust, blanketing the small island (4-km radius).

As the authorities remain on high alert, there were no significant reductions in the activity, experts said.

Complicating matters, an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale jolted eastern Indonesia today, 800 km north-east of the volcano, rattling nerves even more.

However, no deaths or damage were reported so far, and no tsunami warning was issued.

On Palu'e, islanders have had to cope with the problems associated with their volcano for a long time. Rising to 875 metres above sea level, its biggest eruption in recent history dates back to 1928. On that occasion, a tsunami followed.

For the authorities, the island is a high-risk area; yet, most of its residents, who number in the thousands, have chosen to stay, believing that the mountain has to be cared for continuously to avert the danger of eruptions.

Indonesia is an archipelago of thousands of islands and atolls on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, part of what earth scientists call the "Ring of Fire".

The latter is characterised by intense volcanic and earthquake activity, due to the collision of several continental plates.

Many still vividly remember the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the region in December 2004, with the epicentre off the coast of Aceh, causing hundreds of thousands of victims throughout Asia.

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