Toll in Indonesia volcano eruption rises to 25

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MOUNT MERAPI - The death toll from a volcanic eruption on Indonesia’s central Java island rose to 25 Wednesday, hospital staff said, as rescue workers resumed their search for bodies and survivors.

Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most dangerous volcano, erupted Tuesday evening, spewing clouds of hot ash 1.5 km into the sky and sending hot debris down its southern and south-western slopes.

The eruption came a day after authorities upgraded the danger alert status to the highest level.

“Twenty-five people were killed and 12 others are being treated,” said Trisno Heru Nugroho, spokesman for the Sardjito hospital in the city of Yogyakarta, near the volcano.

Thousands of villagers who had refused to leave their homes despite a warning were moved after the eruption.

A rescue official said the search was focused on two villages - Kinahrejo and Turgo, where at least 15 bodies were found at the house of Mbah Maridjan, known as the spiritual keeper of the volcano.

According to local television, his family identified him as one of the dead, local television said.

Maridjan, revered by locals as a man who was believed to be able predict the behaviour of the volcano, had refused to leave his house.

“These two hamlets are the most severely hit by hot ash from the volcano,” the state-run Antara news agency quoted the rescue team commander Aloysius Pramono as saying.

Television footage showed rescue workers using a chainsaw to cut away fallen trees blocking the evacuation routes.

The Jakarta-based news website said one of its reporters was among the dead.

A three-month-old baby died of respiratory problems, while at least 60 people were treated after inhaling volcanic dust.

Officials estimated up to 40,000 people live in the affected areas.

The eruption also damaged hundreds of homes and other property.

The 2,968-metre volcano located about 500 km south-east of Jakarta last erupted in 2006, killing two people.

Its most deadly eruption on record occurred in 1930, when 1,370 people were killed. At least 66 people were killed in a 1994 eruption.

Indonesia has the highest density of volcanoes in the world with about 500 in the 5,000-km-long archipelago nation. Nearly 130 are active and 68 are listed as dangerous.

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