A volcano in southeast Indonesia erupted in dramatic fashion early Friday, sending a huge plume of ash hundreds of feet into the air and triggering panic in a nearby village.
Mount Sinabung, 40 miles from the provincial capital of Karo, issued a red alert shortly after 2 a.m. and started spewing plumes of ash 30 to 40 meters (100 to 150 feet) high. Airplanes were immediately barred from flying near the volcano.
Several vehicles carrying people to a cemetery crashed after being blinded by the ash and sirens wailed from nearby villages. Some farmers fled home in their underwear and with their farm animals.
A hospital in Karo saw at least 21 injured people from the volcano, including a 4-year-old boy with burns on 25 percent of his body. He was airlifted to a hospital in Yogyakarta, the nearest city.
“Several people had bloody noses from the burning and many had burns,” said Surono, a disaster mitigation agency official at Sinabung.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. More than 240 volcanoes in Indonesia are active.
Sinabung, located in North Sumatra province, erupted repeatedly from 2009 to 2014. It has been dormant since, but activity picked up last week.
Indonesia’s meteorological agency raised the alert for Sinabung from two to three on a four-point scale.
Fireballs reached as high as 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above the volcano, its lava dome appeared to be stabilizing and the sound of rumbling grew louder.
“My house is in flames,” said Mundung Wawan, a local villager. “The molten lava came like rain.”
The Karo Airport, which is about 7 miles from the volcano, was closed for a second straight day.