Terrifying, beautiful and deadly

Indonesia's mount Lokon spewed hot lava and volcanic ash 1,500 metres into the sky in the north of Sulawesi island yesterday, prompting panicked residents to flee the area.

"The eruption has set ablaze the forests around the crater," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. There are no immediate reports of casualties.

The first major eruption of the 1,579-metre-high volcano, just before midnight on Thursday, woke up residents who fled. The government plans to give masks and tents to people who have sought refuge in school buildings.

The Centre of Vulcanology and Disaster Mitigation has raised the status of the volcano to its highest alert level, advising evacuation for about 28,000 people who live within 3.5km of the crater.

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