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More than 19,000 flee as volcano erupts on Indonesia's Sumatra

Dedi Sahputra / EPA

Mount Sinabung is seen spewing hot gas and ash on the northern end of Indonesia's Sumatra island on Monday.

A volcano that has been erupting for months on Indonesia’s Sumatra island sent ash 23,000 feet into the air overnight on Monday, forcing more than 19,000 people to flee, authorities said.

Mount Sinabung blasted out lava, ash and rocks nine times Monday night and Tuesday morning, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the AFP news agency.

He said people had been warned to stay out of a three-mile radius of the volcano, and soldiers had been sent in to evacuate diehards who had refused to leave, AFP reported.

The volcano began erupting in September after being quiet for three years, and by November tens of thousands of acres of crops were reported to have been damaged. Photos taken in November showed ash and rocks blasting into the sky and tomato crops covered in dust.   

Related: Surreal skies over Mount Sinabung as huge plumes of ash billow