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Thousands Flee Exploding Indonesian Volcano July 22, 2011
Pyrocumulus ash cloud
Mount Lokon blast on Sunday sending pyrocumulus ash cloud soaring 11,500 feet into the atmosphere.
Indonesia’s Mount Lokon produced its most powerful explosion so far in its current eruptive phase when two separate blasts in a single day rocked an area near the North Sulawesi capital of Manado.

Government vulcanologists said the explosion sent super-heated ash and debris. It also prompted frightened villagers to rush back into emergency shelters.

The soil around Lokon is rich in nutrients thanks to the mountain’s regular expulsions of lava and ash. More than 33,000 people live on its slopes, tending to crops of cloves and coffee.

Despite being warned since the initial blasts last week that the mountain was still unsafe, some had returned to their crops and livestock when Sunday’s blasts occurred.

“It sounded like a bomb and then I saw the crater burst, sending ash high into the air. It was pretty awesome, really,” coffee picker Henny Lalawi told The Associated Press.

Lokon’s last eruption was in 1991, when a Swiss hiker was killed by the blast and thousands of villagers were forced from their homes.

Photo: Volcanology Survey of Indonesia.