lightning storm inside Sinabung volcano
© Caters News Agency
German photographer Martin Rietze, 50, captured the stunning photos while visiting the volatile Sinabung volcano in Indonesia
This is the jaw-dropping moment a lightning storm erupted in an ash cloud as a notorious volcano spewed hot lava towards villages below.

Photographer Martin Rietze's stunning photos of the volatile Sinabung volcano in Indonesia are a fascinating display of the raw beauty and frightening power of planet Earth.

As the ash cloud billows into the night sky a barrage of lightning bolts crackle from deep within it - creating a mesmerising scene that looks like the entrance to the underworld.

It is believed that the collision of fine ash grains in the air creates huge amounts of static electricity, resulting in a spectacular electrical storm.

lightning storm at the Sinabung volcano
© Caters News Agency
As the ash cloud billows into the night sky a barrage of lightning bolts crackle from deep within it, creating a fascinating scene
While it is an amazing display the 8,000ft volcano, in North Sumatra, has proven to be deadly since it erupted in 2010 after being dormant for an estimated 400 years.

On this occasion some small villages were wiped out by the lava flow and many acres of farmland were buried by ash, the photographer said.

Known as a pyroclastic flow, the deadly mix of burning hot ash, gas and lava can quickly blanket large areas, exterminating anything and everything in its path.

But if that wasn't destructive enough, the Sinabung volcano oozes rivers of scorching hot magma and creates blasts of swirling heat tornadoes.

And despite the obvious dangers, this didn't stop Martin, 50, from photographing the explosive action.

He said: 'Pyroclastic flows are mainly silent, gliding along at high speeds like a hovercraft. They are absolutely deadly, all life forms that come in to contact with it would die instantly.

'Seeing such a strong and powerful pyroclastic flow from very near is indeed a little bit frightening.'

Martin said: 'Nobody was killed by this particular eruption but a few weeks later during its lower activity, one single but exceptionally strong pyroclastic flow did indeed kill some nearby observers.'

He said a few small villages were hit by the lava flow and 'burned completely', but more villages and surrounding farmland were covered in three feet of ash.

He added: 'All crops were destroyed and its inhabitants were evacuated. 'The mini tornadoes are caused by the hot air from the pyroclastic flow mixing with surrounding air which generates high momentum, spinning air combined with fine dust and ash.

'A few days before, while standing near to a lava field on Fogo Island, such a tornado formed and hit me.

'Hats, backpacks and equipment were sent flying through the air for hundreds of metres, I was completely encased in dust.

'Although a mixture of low and high activity had occurred over the months, catching the volcano at its highest level phase was pure luck.'

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