Panic as Merapi Spews More Ash

Indonesia’s most active volcano which claimed at least 36 lives last week has spewed more searing clouds of gas and ash, triggering fresh panic among locals.

Azis, an official at the volcanology office in the central Java city of Yogyakarta, said that “heat clouds and ash are streaming down from the mouth of Mount Merapi” yesterday afternoon.

Triyono, another official located at the volcanology post seven kilometres from the peak of Mount Merapi, counted at least three emissions.

“The heat clouds flowed as far as 3.5 kilometres down the volcano’s southern slopes,” he said.

Dozens of terrified residents fled Umbulharjo village, 12 kilometres from the peak, on motorcycles and cars.

Hundreds of locals had fled in panic when the volcano erupted violently early Saturday, sparking chaos as people tried to scramble to safety, fearful of a repeat of last week’s deadly eruptions.

The city airport is open but at least one airline has moved its flights to neighbouring Solo city for safety reasons.

“Due to safety considerations, all take-offs and landings have been taking place at Solo airport since yesterday. The Yogyakarta airport has a lot of ash which could enter and stall the engines,” Pudjobroto, a spokesman for national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, said.

“We don’t want to take risks and will monitor developments,” he added.

More than 50,000 people are living in cramped temporary shelters near Yogyakarta, having been ordered to evacuate a 10-kilometre danger zone.

The 2,914-metre Mount Merapi, which means Mountain of Fire, is the most active of the 69 volcanoes with histories of eruptions in Indonesia.

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