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Indonesian volcano erupts, killing 3 and grounding flights

By Kathy Quiano and Ben Brumfield, CNN
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Deaths caused by smoke inhalation and collapsing wall
  • Flights at area airports are canceled because of the ash
  • Indonesian government raises its eruption alert to its highest level
  • Mount Kelud last erupted in 2007; a 1990 eruption was deadly

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- A volcano eruption in Indonesia killed three people and forced tens of thousands more out of their homes, the disaster management agency said Friday.

Two died from smoke inhalation while the third was hit by a collapsing wall. Officials had originally reported two deaths due to falling building debris.

Mount Kelud in the eastern part of the main island Java has been spewing ash for at least two days high into the air, as a smoke plume has risen from out of its crater into the sky.

The government raised its eruption alert to its highest level overnight, and authorities have ordered an evacuation of all residents in a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) radius of the volcano in eastern Java.

Indonesian Volcano forces evacuations

At the height of the crisis Friday, 100,000 people evacuated, but that number later dropped to more than 75,000.

Seven airports closed due to volcanic ash, which filled the skies and can lead to jet engine problems.

Lightning was seen striking the volcano's peak as it spewed debris, according to National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The nation's volcanology agency said other smaller eruptions could happen. Authorities urged people to stay outside the 10-kilometer radius.

Pictures from the scene show large black plumes rising over Mount Kelud, raining pebbles and ash on the surrounding area.

The military has been called in to help evacuate people from the area to nearby shelters.

Mount Kelud last erupted in 2007, but it has recently ramped up activity in the past 10 days.

In 1990, an eruption killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds.

Indonesia is part of the vast "Pacific Ring of Fire," an area of colliding continental plates where powerful earthquakes and volcanic eruptions often occur.

This isn't Indonesia's only volcano problem

December: Volcano in El Salvador erupts for first time in 37 years

CNN's Brian Walker contributed to this report.

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