On Thursday, June 14, an Indonesian volcano spit lava and smoke thousands of feet into the air, sending panicked residents fleeing the area while red-hot lava cascaded down the slopes. According to disaster management agency official Brian Rulrone, the first eruption of Mount Lokon occurred at 10:46 p.m. It was preceded by a second more powerful blast just after midnight, and a third at 1:10 a.m.
Darwis Sitinjak, another disaster official, told El Shinga radio that soldiers and police were aiding rescuers in evacuating about 5,000 people who call the volcanic slopes their home.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but one woman died of a heart attack in the chaos.
Residents were warned on Wednesday to stay far away from the 5,741-foot (1,750-meter) volcano, which has been on high alert for a week, with small daily outbursts. 2,000 had already fled before Thursday's eruption and more than 33,000 people live along the fertile slopes of Mount Lokon.
No flights were cancelled, however, and operations at the nearby international airport in Manado were not affected, said Lucky Podaag, an airport spokesman.
Officials said tourists would be barred from going on popular day hikes to the volcano, located 13 miles (20k) away from provincial capital, Manado.
A vast archipelago of 235 million people, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes as it sits atop the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped string of fault lines that edge the Pacific Ocean. The nation is home to 129 active volcanoes.
Only a fortnight ago, another of Sulawesi Island's most active volcanoes, Mount Soputan, erupted, but there was no need for evacuations.
Mount Lokon had its last major eruption in 1991, killing a Swiss hiker and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.