Huge volcanic blast spurs more Indonesians to flee

Image: AFP

Slamet Riyadi
Associated Press

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — Searing gas and molten lava poured from Indonesia’s deadly volcano in an explosion three times as powerful as last week’s devastating blast, chasing people from villages and emergency shelters along its slopes.

After more than a week of continual eruptions, and warnings that pressure inside Mount Merapi may still be building, the province warned Wednesday it was running out of money to help more than 70,000 people forced from their homes.

Soldiers loaded women and crying children into trucks while rocks and debris rained from the sky. Several abandoned homes were set ablaze and the carcasses of incinerated cattle littered the mountain’s scorched slopes.

No new casualties were reported after Wednesday’s fiery explosion – which followed just before dawn Thursday by another booming tremor and ash cloud.

“This is an extraordinary eruption,” said Surono, a state volcanologist who had earlier said energy building up behind a magma dome in the crater appeared to be easing.

He said the blast, which dusted cars, trees and roads in towns up to 80 miles (130 kilometers) away in gray ash, had triple the force of the first eruption on Oct. 26.

“We have no idea what’s happening,” he said, as he watched the bobbing needle of a seismograph machine. “It looks like we may be entering an even worse stage now.”

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