Jakarta, March 22 (IANS) At least 30 people have been poisoned and 178 were evacuated after sulphur gas was released following several minor eruptions from the Ijen volcano in eastern Java, Indonesian officials said on Thursday.
The series of eruptions and spread of toxic gas on Wednesday evening led to the forced evacuation of residents living on the slope of the volcano, National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho was cited as saying by Efe news.
The residents of Margahayu, located 1.5 km from Ijen, were taken to three hospitals after experiencing shortness of breath and other symptoms of poisoning.
Although the BNPB said the volcano was on the lowest eruption alert, the authorities prepared 25,000 masks and 20 ambulances in case of future gas releases.
The volcano, popular among tourists, was closed to visitors due to the phreatic eruptions — steam-driven explosions caused by groundwater heating or expanding.
Ijen is a popular tourist destination of Indonesia and dozens visit the volcano every night equipped with gas masks to protect against the blue flames coming from its crater emitted by sulphur mining.