Merapi Eruption Could Last 2 Months

Jakarta. Indonesia’s Mount Merapi in central Java spewed more hot clouds of ash today, as volcanologist said such activity may last for about two months.

Today’s action didn’t qualify as an eruption, Subandriyo, an official at the country’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center, said.

“People will be safe if they stay at least 10 kilometers away from the center of Merapi,” Subandriyo said by phone from Jakarta. They should not go back to their villages to work at their rice fields, he said.

Indonesia is battling to recover from two disasters that struck the Southeast Asian nation within a day of each other. The death toll from eruptions of Mount Merapi since Oct. 26 reached 42, Agam Ferdhatama, an official the National Disaster Management Agency said by phone today.

Relief workers are focusing on nursing and providing shelter for the survivors of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, Ade Edward, operational head at the West Sumatra Regional Disaster Management Agency, said.

“Military and police personnel are already at villages with good transportation access,” Edward said by phone today from the West Sumatra provincial capital, Padang. “They will start building non-permanent houses there.”

The death toll from the Oct. 25 tsunami in Mentawai was revised down to 427 today from 431 yesterday, with 75 missing, Ferdhatama said.

Rescuers in central Java provided counseling to elderly people and children to help ease the trauma from the Merapi eruption, Oka Hamid, a spokesman at the Red Cross Indonesia’s Yogyakarta branch said yesterday.

Indonesia’s Transport Ministry ordered airlines to change flight routes to avoid volcanic ash from Mount Merapi, spokesman Bambang Ervan said yesterday. Airports in nearby cities including in Solo, Yogyakarta and Semarang are still operating, he added.

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