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Indonesia raises volcano threat alert to highest level

Sumatra's Mount Sinabung began erupting violently on Sunday, prompting an elevation in alerts and the evacuation of 15,000 from their homes.

Indonesia Mount Sinabung eruptionEnlarge
Sinabung volcano spews thick smoke and volcanic material in Indonesia's Karo district on September 15, 2013. Thousands of villagers fled the area on September 15 after a volcano erupted on Indonesia's Sumatra island, spewing rocks and red-hot ash onto surrounding villages, officials said. (KHARISMA TARIGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Sumatra's Mount Sinabung erupted multiple times over Saturday night and into Sunday, prompting the evacuation of 15,000 from their homes as authorities raised the highest possible alert. 

The volcano began throwing gas and ash into the air Sunday evening, reaching heights of as much as 5,000 meters (16,400 feet), with gas extending more than 1.2 miles down its slope, per the New Straits Times.

More from GlobalPost: Indonesian volcano erupts for third time in three months

"We have raised the status to 'caution', which is the highest of levels for volcanic activity because we anticipate there will be more eruptions and because the intensity of eruptions has been increasing," the Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency said in a written statement, according to Al Jazeera. 

"People panicked last night as the eruption was accompanied by a loud thunderous sound and vibrations. Then it started raining down rocks," said local government official Robert Peranginangin to AFP. 
"They ran helter-skelter out of their homes and cried for help."

The volcano has been exceptionally restive for the past three months, prompting multiple evacuations. It last erupted in August of 2010, killing two people and causing 30,000 to flee — the first such eruption in 400 years. 

Here is Reuters video of Mt Sinabung spewing ash: 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/indonesia/131124/indonesia-raises-volcano-threat-alert-highest-le