Mass Burial for Volcano Victims

SIDOREJO (Indonesia) – DISASTER-PRONE Indonesia paused on Thursday to bury victims of Mount Merapi’s violent eruption, including an elderly spiritual leader appointed to hush the volcano’s restless spirits.

More than 20 of the 32 victims were buried in a mass grave in central Java as the country reels from the twin disasters of Tuesday’s eruption and a tsunami which struck Sumatra island on Monday, killing more than 300 people.

Government volcanologists said Merapi, the most active volcano in an archipelago studded with smouldering peaks, had been relatively quiet since the deadly eruptions which smothered the surrounding countryside in fine ash.

Inside the danger zone on Thursday, the landscape was a picture of devastation. Houses were flattened and burnt, pine trees stood like chopsticks with leaves and branches seared away, and thick grey ash covered everything.

The stench of rotting bodies, of people and livestock, was strong in places, while clouds of white and black smoke rose menacingly from the mouth of the volcano above.

More than 50,000 people crammed into uncomfortable temporary shelters near the Central Java provincial capital of Yogyakarta were told it was too soon to return home. — AFP

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