JAKARTA -- Authorities have raised the alert status of Mount Soputan in Southeast Minahasa District, North Sulawesi Province, to Level 3 or Siaga (watch) status after it erupted on Wednesday morning.

"Local residents should not carry out activities within the four-kilometer radius of the volcano's peak," Head of the Information Data Center and Public Relations of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho noted in a written statement released on Wednesday.

He also urged residents living as far as 6.5 kilometers west and southwest of the volcano's peak to avoid the possibility of a lava slide or hot cloud.

Residents living around the volcano should also prepare to wear masks to avoid the possibility of developing upper respiratory tract infections in case of a volcanic ash rain, he said.

"They also need to stay on alert for the threat of lava flow when materials from the volcano`s eruption are carried by river water," he added. 

The 1,784-meter-high volcano erupted on Wednesday at 8:47 a.m. local time.

The volcano spewed a massive column of ash reaching heights of between three to four thousand meters, Asep head of the Mount Soputan observation post in Silian said. 

Prior to the eruption, a loud explosion was audible at the observation post. Thick cloud was seen moving in the westerly and northwesterly directions of South Minahasa. (Antara)