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  • 14 February 2014, 16:47

Indonesia Volcano Erupts: Two Islanders Dead

Two people have died and thousands have been forced to leave their homes during a major volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Java.

Mount Kelud erupted violently about 90 minutes after authorities raised its alert status to the highest level, said Indonesia's volcano monitoring agency. It said the explosion could be heard up to 125 miles away, with tremors still wracking the volcano.

Indonesia's second-largest city, Surabaya, was carpeted with grey ash up to 1in deep. In villages, cattle were covered.

The two who died were killed when the roofs of their homes collapsed under the weight of ash and volcanic debris unleashed during the overnight eruption.

International airports in Jogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya were closed and Virgin Australia said it had cancelled all its Friday flights to Bali, Phuket, Christmas Island and Cocos Island because of the eruption.

The 5,680ft Mount Kelud in eastern Java - Indonesia's most densely populated island and home to more than half of the country's 240 million people - has been rumbling for several weeks and was under close observation.

Kelud is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

The archipelagic nation is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the 'Ring of Fire' - a series of fault lines stretching from the western hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

Due to the fertile volcanic soil and the shortage of space on Java, hundreds of thousands of people live close to active volcanoes. They are used to the rumblings, but their proximity to the peaks presents difficulties for authorities.

The last major eruption at Kelud was in 1990, when more than 30 people died and hundreds were injured. In 1919, a powerful explosion, reportedly heard hundreds of kilometers, away killed more than 5,000.

Earlier this month, Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province erupted just as authorities were allowing thousands of evacuated villagers to return to its slopes.

Sinabung has been erupting for four months, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people.

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