Indonesian volcano rumbles, flights cancelled

Saturday, November 6, 2010

JAKARTA - Indonesia’s Mount Merapi rumbled Saturday, a day after the volcano’s eruptions killed dozens of people and forced thousands to flee to emergency shelters.

The death toll from the volcano’s series of eruptions since Oct 26 was revised down to 116, from, 122 earlier in the day, Agam Verdatama, an official at the National Disaster Management Agency said.

“There was a confusion with the death toll but it has been corrected,” he said. More than 200 people were injured.

Sutopo Nugroho, the agency’s director for disaster risk reduction, said that the volcano continued to emit clouds of hot ash.

“The situation remains dangerous,” he said.

The agency said more than 200,000 people were evacuated after the expansion Friday of the danger zone from a 15-km to 20-km radius from Merapi’s peak. An estimated 250,000 people live within the zone in central Java.

A presidential aide in charge of disaster response, Andi Arief, said three more bodies were found Saturday in the Cangkringan area.

Bayu Gawtama, a rescue worker from the Aksi Cepat Tanggap charity, said villages devastated by Friday’s eruption were deserted.

“The villages look like ghost towns, like those in horror films,” he said by telephone, adding that the search for more bodies was continuing.

“I think yesterday’s deadly eruption has scared even the most stubborn villagers,” he said.

Before Friday’s blast, many residents had refused to leave their homes, fearing for the safety of their livestock and other property.

The continuing eruptions of Merapi has forced airlines to cancel all its flights.

Singapore Airlines said flights to and from Jakarta were being temporarily suspended while budget carrier AirAsia cancelled flights to and from Yogyakarta, Solo and Bandung Saturday.

Experts said Friday’s blast was the volcano’s most powerful in about 100 years. Jets of searing gas and volcanic debris burned homes and everything in their path.

Adi Sutjipto International Airport in the nearby city of Yogyakarta, a popular tourist destination, remained closed Saturday because of the volcanic ash, an airport official said.

The airport in Solo in Central Java province, which was closed Saturday morning, reopened at midday, an official said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was in Yogyakarta to oversee the emergency response, dispatched a military brigade to help evacuees and build shelters and field hospitals.

Nugroho said six C-130 Hercules military cargo planes were being deployed to help deliver aid and fly the injured to other cities.

The 2,968-metre peak is about 500 km south-east of Jakarta. Its deadliest eruption on record occurred in 1930 when 1,370 people were killed. At least 66 people were killed in a 1994 eruption, and two people were killed in 2006, which had been in latest eruption before it rumbled back to life last month.

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 volcanoes, and 68 are classified as dangerous.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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