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Photos: Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung erupts, spews towering ash cloud

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 20, 2018, 12:49:31 PM EST

Mount Sinabung erupted on Monday morning, sending an ash cloud more than 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) towering into the atmosphere. No fatalities or injuries have been reported.

The volcano erupted at 8:53 a.m. Monday WIB (8:53 p.m. Sunday EST) on Indonesia's island of Sumatra, according to the country's National Disaster Management Agency. The eruption lasted for 291 seconds.

The powerful blast permanently reshaped the volcano by blowing the part of the mountain top completely off.

Sinaburg Feb 19

Mount Sinabung spews volcanic ash as it erupts in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Sugeng Nuryono)

The volcanic ash fell on surrounding areas, turning the morning sky dark with visibility down to 5 meters (16 feet).

Ash from the volcano reached Lhokseumawe, located more than 260 km (162 miles) northwest of the volcano.

Residents and visitors are being encouraged to avoid the area immediately surrounding the volcano, including the 3-km (10,000-foot) radius from the peak.

The agency reports that an unsecured dam along the Laborus River has developed. Residents downstream are urged to remain vigilant and be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

Ash Feb 19

Motorists ride on a road covered in volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Gurukinayan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Endro Rusharyanto)

Some residents, especially the elderly, have sought shelter away from the volcano while crews begin the task of cleaning up the volcanic ash.

"Showers and thunderstorms will be around daily this week, mainly during the afternoon and evening hours," AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Richards said.

The wet weather is expected to increase in coverage into Wednesday.

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Rain can combine with the ash to create extremely slippery travel and increase the risk for roof collapses.

Wet ash also conducts electricity, which may cause high-voltage circuits and transformers to short out and fail.

More lives and property will be threatened if enough rain pours down and triggers lahars, the volcanic version of a mudslide, down the slopes of Mount Sinabung.

The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre raised the alert level for aviation to red following the eruption, warning airplanes to avoid the area surrounding Mount Sinabung.

The alert was later terminated once the volcanic ash had dispersed and air travel was deemed safe.

Aside from ash cleanup operations around the volcano, the National Disaster Management Agency reports that daily activities resumed back to normal later on Monday.

"People are accustomed to seeing the eruption of Mount Sinabung."

After being dormant for four centuries, Mount Sinabung came to life in 2010 and killed two people, according to the Associated Press. Two other deadly eruptions followed in 2014 and 2016.

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