4 feared dead after Indonesia volcano eruption

/ Source: The Associated Press

One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes erupted Friday, sending lava and a searing gas cloud tumbling down its slopes. At least four people were feared dead, officials said, and several others were seriously hurt.

"It happened so fast," said Surono, the director of the volcanology and mitigation agency. "There was no time for an evacuation." (Like many Indonesians, Surono has only one name.)

Mount Karangetang, located on Siau, part of the Sulawesi island chain, burst just after midnight when heavy rains broke the volcano's hot lava dome, spitting out 1,110 degree Fahrenheit clouds of gas.

Ash and lava crashed down the mountain's western slope, destroying at least seven houses, said Priyadi Kardono, an official with the national disaster management agency.

He said the death toll was expected to rise.

"We are having a hard time communicating with people in the danger zones," Kardono said.

Authorities were trying to evacuate residents living in at least one nearby village, said Tony Supit, a district chief.

In all, about 22,000 people live on Siau island. The last time the 5,853-foot mountain erupted was July 2006.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is located on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.