75,000 Flee New Merapi Eruption

Mount Merapi. In its biggest eruption since Tuesday evening, ejected volcanic ash and other material over a 2 kilometers radius early on Thursday morning.

Surono, head of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG), said the ash was being blown in a westerly direction toward Magelang in Central Java.

“We warned the aviation authorities to divert flights to Adi Sutjipto Airport, Yogyakarta,” he said.

Heavy rain overnight Wednesday triggered lahars that cascaded down the Kuning, Gendol, Woro, Boyong, Krasak and Opak rivers on the slopes of the volcano.

There is a strong smell of sulphur around the mountain, adding to the general unease in cities near the volcano.

More Indonesian residents, meanwhile, sought shelter after authorities extended the minimum safety distance to 15 kilometers from 10 kilometers following the latest blast.

About 75,770 people stayed at evacuation centers at four regencies in Yogyakarta and Central Java provinces, compared with 74,933 yesterday, Furqon Chavid Setianto, an official at the National Disaster Management Agency.

“Merapi is still very active; it spouted hot ash cloud to 2 kilometers radius and we can see hot lava splashing at 500 meters height with 500 meters radius,” said Dwi Lastomo, an official at the Yogyakarta branch of the Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center.

Mount Merapi, which means mountain of fire, may release clouds of hot ash for about two months, Subandriyo, an official at the volcanology center, said on Wednesday. The death toll from the eruptions since Oct. 26 reached 44, Setianto said.

Indonesia is battling to recover from two disasters that struck the Southeast Asian nation within a day of each other.

On the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, relief workers are focusing on nursing and providing shelter for the survivors of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami that struck the island chain Oct. 25, Ade Edward, operational head at the West Sumatra Regional Disaster Management Agency, said yesterday.

The death toll from the disaster remained at 427, Setianto said today.

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