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29 December 2011

'Cold lava flood' kills villagers near Indonesia volcano

Fast-moving mudflows streaming from the mouth of a volcano killed four villagers in eastern Indonesia, officials said Wednesday.

About 1,000 other people have fled their homes.

Mount Gamalama, located in the Molucca Islands, sprang back to life this month with a powerful, non-fatal eruption.

Government spokesman Yusuf Sunnya said Wednesday that days of heavy rains triggered flows of cold lava, rocks and other debris that slammed into villages Tuesday night.

He said four people were killed and more than a dozen others were hospitalized with injuries ranging from broken bones to head wounds.

The Jakarta Post described the deadly incident as a "cold lava flood."

Provincial spokesman Andi Arief said the cold lava slides destroyed several houses in the villages.

"Initial data cited that three people died, while many other residents (were) evacuated to a school building and the former North Maluku governor's office," Andi said in a statement.

Indonesia is a vast archipelago with millions of people living on mountains or near fertile flood plains. Seasonal downpours here often cause landslides.

The Associated Press and staff contributed to this report.