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Thousands flee to safety as Indonesia's Mount Lokon volcano erupts

Thousands of Indonesians fled a volcanic eruption Thursday at Mount Lokon on Sulawesi island.

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(Antler)

Thousands of Indonesians fled a volcanic eruption Thursday at Mount Lokon on Sulawesi island.

Ash, hot rocks and searing gas were hurled 1,500 meters (4,800 feet) into the night sky around 2230 local time (1530 GMT), according to AFP news agency.

Milder eruptions continued into Friday morning and officials encouraged people to leave a 3.5-kilometer (two mile) evacuation zone established several days ago.

There were no reports of casualties and government volcanologist Kristianto said residents had moved to safety in an orderly fashion.

"There is no mass panic because the community has already been warned of the situation and we are continuing to evacuate people," Kristianto said.

More than 4,000 of the 28,000 people who live in the evacuation zone had already left, officials said.

The international airport in the provincial capital of Manado, the gateway for tourists heading to the coral reefs of Bunaken, was operating normally, Reuters reported.

The 1,580-meter (5,144-foot) Mount Lokon is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, a huge archipelago of 17,000 islands. It last erupted in 1991.

More than 350 people were killed last year in a series of eruptions at Mount Merapi in central Java island, the country's most active volcano.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/indonesia/110715/indonesia-volcano-erupt-lokon