Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mount Merapi Blasts

Huge volcanic blast spurs more Indonesians to flee

Lava glows at the crater of Mount Merapi as seen from Sidorejo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. Indonesia's most dangerous volcano i
AP – Lava glows at the crater of Mount Merapi as seen from Sidorejo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday

By SLAMET RIYADI, Associated Press Slamet Riyadi, Associated Press – 8 mins ago

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – A deadly Indonesian volcano spewing lava and smoke for more than a week erupted Wednesday with its biggest blast yet, shooting searing ash miles into the air as soldiers hastily evacuated villages and emergency shelters.

Women screamed and children cried as they were loaded into trucks while rocks and debris rained from the sky. Several abandoned homes were set ablaze and the carcasses of incinerated cattle littered the scorched slopes.

No new casualties were reported immediately after the booming explosion, which lasted more than an hour.

"This is an extraordinary eruption, triple from the first" on Oct. 26, said Surono, a state volcanologist.

More than 70,000 villagers have been evacuated from the 9,700-foot (3,000-meter) Mount Merapi's once-fertile slopes since it began erupting just over a week ago, killing 38 people and injuring dozens, most with severe burns.

There have been more than a dozen strong blasts since then — including one Wednesday morning — prompting some scientists to say pressure inside the crater was easing.

The danger zone was widened from 10 kilometers (six miles) from the glowing crater to 15 (9) because of the heightened threat. Soldiers and police blocked all roads leading up the mountain, shooing away television crews and reporters.

"I (didn't) think of anything else except to save my wife and son. We left my house and everything," said Tentrem Wahono, 50, who lives in Kaliurang village, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the peak.

He and his family fled on a motorbike, "racing with the explosive sounds as the searing ash chased us from behind."

The last eruption has raised Merapi's status to "crisis" condition, said Andi Arief, a special staff at the presidential office dealing with disaster and social assistance.

Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has erupted many times in the last century, killing more than 1,400 people.


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