A volcano in western Indonesia erupted on Thursday, unleashing a column of dark volcanic material high into the air weeks after villagers were returning home from an earlier eruption, officials said.

The explosion at Mount Sinabung, located in North Sumatra province, shot black ash three kilometres into the air, but there were no reports of injuries or damage, said National Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

He said villages, farms and trees around the 2,600-metre-high rumbling volcano were covered in thick grey ash, prompting authorities to evacuate the homes of more than 3,300 people. Most were from two villages within three kilometres of the mountain in Karo district.

2010 eruption caught scientists off guard

No lava or debris spewed from the volcano, and nearby towns and villages were not in danger, but authorities warned tourists to stay away from the danger zone, located 1.5 kilometres from the crater, Nugroho said.

Indonesia Volcano Eruption

Mount Sinabung spews volcanic materials into the air as it erupts in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, on Sept. 17. (Binsar Bakkara/Associated Press)

Last month, more than 15,000 people were forced to flee when the volcano rumbled to life after being dormant for three years, belching ash and smoke and igniting fires on its slopes.

The volcano's last major eruption in August 2010 killed two people and forced 30,000 others to flee. It caught many scientists off guard because it had been quiet for four centuries.

Mount Sinabung is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.