Indonesia on alert over Mount Merapi

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi continued to spew lava and searing clouds of gas and ash on Sunday as geologists maintained the top danger alert on the smouldering volcano.

Despite losing a huge chunk of the lava dome forming at its peak on Friday, which lessened the danger of a major eruption, geologists said the volcano—whose name means “Mountain of Fire”—still posed a threat.

“The ‘Beware’ status remains as there are no indications that could point otherwise,” said Tri Yani of the vulcanology office in Yogyakarta just south of the volcano.

“Beware” status is the top alert on a volcano. Authorities slapped the red alert on May 13 and have since maintained it.

The rumbling volcano’s activities remained significant, although its lava dome lost about 1,3-million cubic meters of material on Friday evening, releasing heat clouds of gas and ash that reached down 5km on its south-eastern slope.

There were no casualties as they did not reach inhabited areas. About 66 people were killed by such clouds in 1994 during Merapi’s last major eruption.

On Sunday, the volcano spewed a large trail of heat clouds that went 4km down its southern slope, Yani said.

It also emitted at least 82 torrents of lava, one of which reached as far as 3km down its south-western slope.

On Saturday, Merapi churned out 25 heat-cloud cascades up to 3,5km high, and 145 lava flows up to 3km down the slope.

Merapi began to build its new lava dome early in May but its activities later settled down before reawakening on May 27 following a strong earthquake that killed more than 5 800 people in and around Yogyakarta.

The volcano spewed its largest clouds of volcanic gas, ash and dust on Friday evening, causing panic among residents who scurried down its slopes.

More than 18 000 residents evacuated from its flanks are living in makeshift camps.

Merapi’s deadliest eruption occurred in 1930 when more than 1 300 people were killed.—AFP

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