Volcano Erupts in Indonesia, Shooting Sand, Smoke Into Sky

A volcano erupted in central Indonesia on Thursday, shooting plumes of white smoke and sand 1,500 yards into the air and covering nearby villages in ash, officials said.

Violent tremors sent farmers tilling land near Mount Soputan's crater fleeing before the blast, said Sandy Manengke, a local monitoring official, adding that there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The nearest villages are five miles from the crater's mouth, well clear of the danger zone, he added, but many houses were covered in black soot and residents wore face masks to protect themselves against the smoke.

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, 1,350 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta, is one of its most active. The 1,950-yard-high volcano rarely spews lava, however, Manengke said.

The mountain's alert remained at the second-highest level despite Thursday's activity, said Surono, a senior government vulcanologist, who goes by only one name. No evacuation order had been issued, because most people live well away from the crater, he added.