Indonesian volcano Batu Tara starts massive eruption

Authorities warned thousands of people on an east Indonesian island to prepare to evacuate after a volcano started spewing rocks and lava, an official said Friday.

The 748-meter (2,454-foot) Batu Tara, which began rumbling last week, released hot lava and rocks over the last two days and shot clouds of hot air as high as 2,000 meters (6,600 feet), said Andreas Duli Manuk, chief of Lembata district.

Andreas said about 6,800 residents in six villages on the northern coast of Lembata island, the closest islet south of the volcano, were on alert for evacuation. He added some have already fled their villages to safer areas.

Fishermen, also, have been warned to stay at least 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the volcanic island, he said.

A survey team that failed to land on the volcanic island because of high waves returned to Lembata on Thursday, Andreas said.

Batu Tara, whose only confirmed historical eruption was during 1847-52, is located on Komba island in the Flores sea, about 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) southeast of Jakarta.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

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