A volcanic eruption on the tiny Indonesian island of Palue killed six people in their sleep Saturday, sending hot ash and rocks flying 6,560 feet into the air, a disaster official told The Associated Press.
Mount Rokatenda erupted at 4:27 a.m. local time and sent fast-moving red-hot ash onto a nearby beach, according to the National Data Mitigation Agency in Indonesia.
The victims who died included three adults and two children, said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, adding that the age of the sixth person killed was unclear.
Rokatenda has been rumbling since October 2012, causing authorities to ban people from any activities within a nearly two-mile area from the crater on the island of an estimated 7,000 people.
The eruption lasted about seven minutes, according to Frans Wangge, the head of the volcano's monitoring post. He said the hot lava burned trees around the beach and villages, and made it difficult to reach the area where the victims were killed.
Local authorities, including police and army officials along with members of a search and rescue agency, were heading to Palue to help with evacuations. Officials had already evacuated 3,000 people before the eruption took place.
"We will see the best steps to be taken, but clearly they have to be evacuated," said Yoseph Ansar Rara, chief of Sikka District, which oversees the island. He said those already evacuated had agreed to be relocated to Flores island.
Domi Dange, a Catholic priest helping those who fled to the town of Maumere on nearby Flores island, said some Palue residents, who had refused to leave when the area was cleared earlier, were sleeping under tents near the beach.
However, details about the six people who were killed and where they were located at the time of the eruption remained unclear.
Mount Rokatenda is one of about 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that sit on the "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe shaped series of faultlines between the Pacific and Indian Oceans with dozens of active volcanoes. Around 240 million people live in the region.
The country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of violent eruptions in 2010.
Al Jazeera and wire services