Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thousands flee as volcano rumbles

Residents fled the slopes of Mount Merapi on the island of Java as the volcano appeared on the verge of eruption.

Indonesian officials ordered an evacuation of the area Saturday as the volcano belched ash clouds and lava seeped 1,500 meters down its slopes.

Mount Merapi spews lava and ash, scientists warn of an imminent eruption
Mount Merapi in Indonesia spews lava and ash, scientists warn of an imminent eruption. AP photo from Yahoo News.

Bambang Dwiyanto of the region's government volcano center said that lava flows over the last few days indicated the presence of hot gases. On Saturday the volcano emitted at least 14 hot ash clouds. Volcanologists also recorded 27 tremors from the mountain.

Merapi is located in the densely-populated Central Java region about 400 kilometers from the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Merapi means "fire mountain" and the volcano is located south of Java's famous Buddhist monument, the Borobudur temple pyramid. Royal buildings in the ancient capital of Yogyakarta are oriented with Merapi as the sacred axis.

The mountain is one of Indonesia's 129 active volcanoes. It's last eruption in 1994 killed 60, and about 1,300 died when it erupted in 1930.

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