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Thursday, 24 October 2013 03:13

Indonesian volcano spits powerful burst of ash

   MEDAN, Indonesia (AP) — A volcano in western Indonesia erupted on Thursday, unleashing a column of dark volcanic material high into the air weeks after villagers were returning home from an earlier eruption, officials said.

   The explosion at Mount Sinabung, located in North Sumatra province, shot black ash 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) into the air, but there were no reports of injuries or damage, said National Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

   He said villages, farms and trees around the 2,600-meter (8,530-foot) -high rumbling volcano were covered in thick gray ash, prompting authorities to evacuate more than 3,300 people. Most were from two villages within 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) of the mountain in Karo district.

   No lava or debris spewed from the volcano, and nearby towns and villages were not in danger, but authorities warned tourists to stay away from the danger zone located 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the crater, Nugroho said.

   Last month, more than 15,000 people were forced to flee when the volcano rumbled to life after being dormant for three years, belching ash and smoke and igniting fires on its slopes.

   The volcano's last major eruption in August 2010 killed two people and forced 30,000 others to flee. It caught many scientists off guard because it had been quiet for four centuries.

   Mount Sinabung is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

Published in National News

   WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Strong earthquakes shook central New Zealand on Friday, damaging homes, destroying a bridge and sending office workers scrambling for cover in the capital. No serious injuries have been reported.

   A magnitude-6.5 temblor struck just after 2:30 p.m. near the small South Island town of Seddon, and at least six aftershocks were 5.0 magnitude or stronger.

   Several homes near the epicenter were severely damaged, with chimneys collapsing and roofs caving in, said police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn. She said a bridge was severely damaged on the main highway near Seddon, and that rocks and debris had fallen onto the road. Police closed a section of the highway.

   Some buildings in Wellington, the capital, were evacuated, and items were knocked off shelves in places.

   Police said a number of people were freed from Wellington elevators that stopped working. The initial temblor also forced the nation's stock exchange to close for more than an hour.

   Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was no major damage to the city's infrastructure or office buildings. She said highways had become clogged as people left the city.

   "We think this is business as usual," she said, "but it is going to take a little while for people to get home tonight."

   The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the initial temblor was 94 kilometers (58 miles) west of Wellington at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).

   A quake of similar strength in the same area three weeks ago broke water mains, smashed windows and downed power lines.

   Caroline Little, a seismologist with New Zealand quake monitoring agency GeoNet, said the series of quakes since July had followed an unusual pattern.

   "Normally you get a big quake and then the aftershocks get smaller in magnitude," she said.

   Little said the July quake was on a fault line near Seddon that had not previously been mapped. She said it was too early to determine if Friday's quakes were on that same fault.

   A different fault line runs through Wellington, and many in the city fear a major disaster if it were to become active.

   New Zealand is part of the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" that has regular seismic activity. A severe earthquake in the city of Christchurch in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city's downtown.

   Local authorities issued no tsunami warnings after Friday's quakes.

Published in National News

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