By Kate Tuohy

A Comoran woman is seen through the dust as she wears a protective mask in Kwambani town, near the Mount Karthala volcano, on April 19, 2005.<br>
© Radu Sigheti/REUTERS

A Comoran woman is seen through the dust as she wears a protective mask in Kwambani town, near the Mount Karthala volcano, on April 19, 2005.
© Radu Sigheti/REUTERS

Wednesday, April 20-Thick white ash from the erupting Mount Karthala volcano has covered parts of Grand Comore this week. Grand Comore is the largest island in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros.

Nobody was injured and no significant damage was reported, but villagers were alarmed by the volcano's heavy spew of smoke and ash.

"The only problem that is going on at present is a rain of ashes. These ashes are widespread," said Salimou Mohamed, a spokesman for the government's emergency team.

Medical teams were on hand with respiratory machines and villagers were advised to use gas masks and cloth scraps to avoid inhaling the ash.

Officials worried that the volcano could emit sulfur and other toxic gases. They encouraged villagers to take shelter with friends and relatives in other towns.

"This is a volcano. You cannot predict that this is the end of danger and that there is no problem," said Mohamed.

Scientists at the Mount Karthala Observatory flew over the volcano to assess the likelihood of a dangerous eruption.

"We flew over the crater in a small aircraft and there was some lava only at the bottom of the crater. For the moment it is calm; it is stable," said Hamid Soule, one of the scientists.

Mount Karthala last erupted in 1991. Tens of thousands of villagers were forced to leave their homes, but nobody was injured.