Blast From Indonesia Volcano Raises Deaths to 122
Mount Merapi, Indonesia. Searing gas avalanched down an Indonesian volcano with a thunderous roar, torching houses and trees and incinerating villagers as they fled Mount Merapi’s worst eruption in a century.
Dozens of bodies found on Friday raised the death toll to 122.
The injured — with clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin by the 750 degree Celsius heat — were carried away on stretchers following the first big explosion just before midnight.
Soldiers joined rescue operations in hardest-hit Bronggang, a village 15 kilometers from the crater, pulling at least 78 bodies from homes and streets blanketed by ash up to 30-centimeters deep.
Crumpled roofs, charred carcasses of cattle, and broken chairs — all layered in white soot — dotted the smoldering landscape.
Merapi was active throughout the day on Friday.
Agromulyo, Indonesia. At least 49 people were killed and scores injured Friday when Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano erupted again, incinerating villages as far as 18 kilometers away, officials said.
The latest deaths bring the total toll to more than 90 since the country’s most active volcano started erupting on Oct. 26.
“Up to 49 people were killed and 66 people are being treated for burn injuries,” said Banu Hermawan, a spokesman for Sarjito general hospital in Yogyakarta, south of the volcano.
Many of the dead were children from Argomulyo village, 18 kilometers from the crater of the volcano, according to an AFP reporter at the scene and emergency response officials.
“Argomulyo village has been burned down to the ground by the heat clouds. Many children have died there. When I was in the village the ground was still hot,” Yogyakarta police force medic Teguh Dwi Santosa said.
A river running through the village overflowed with a thick mixture of mud and ash, and several bodies lay unclaimed in the debris, witnesses said.
Ash, deadly heat clouds and molten debris gushed from the mouth of the 2,914-meter mountain and shot high into the sky for most of the night and into the morning.
There was panic and chaos on the roads as people tried to flee in the darkness, rescue workers said.
The ranks of evacuees swelled past 100,000 people, with 30,000 moved into a sports stadium about 25 kilometers away from the peak.
“The emergency shelters are now overcrowded,” emergency response field coordinator Widi Sutikno said.
The international airport at Yogyakarta was closed as ash clouds billowed to the altitude of cruising jetliners and the runway was covered in gray soot, officials said.
Government volcanologist Surono said Friday’s blasts were the largest yet.
“This is the biggest eruption so far. The heat clouds went down the slopes as far as 13 kilometres and the explosion was heard as far as 20 kilometers away,” he said.
The exclusion zone was widened from 15 to 20 kilometers around the mountain and everyone living in the area was ordered to evacuate their homes and shelters immediately, he said.
Indonesia’s transport ministry has told pilots to stay at least 12 kilometers away from the rumbling volcano and several flights linking central Java to Singapore and Malaysia have been cancelled this week.
Meanwhile, worries are growing over two other volcanoes that are showing increased activity.
Mount Semeru in Lumajang, East Java, has been almost continuously active since 1967 and on Thursday morning it spewed smoke 100 meters into the air. In Sikka, East Nusa Tenggara, authorities have warned of increased activity at Mount Egon.
“Since Wednesday the mountain has been shrouded in a thick cloud emanating from the crater,” said Suryanto, head of the Egon observation post.
Two other mountains in East Nusa Tenggara — Rokatenda and Lewotobi — are also reported to be exhibiting increased activity.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited people displaced by the volcano on Wednesday as the disaster-prone country struggles to cope with dual natural disasters following a tsunami off Sumatra on October 25.
The three-metre wave smashed into villages on the remote Mentawai island chain following a 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast, killing 428 people and leaving 15,000 homeless.
Another 74 people remain missing, feared dead.
Bad weather and poor communications on the undeveloped islands — a legendary destination for foreign surfers — have hampered efforts to bring food, shelter and medicine to the affected areas.
“We have to use rubber boats to reach isolated villages. We even have to swim to bring the boat over coral reefs,” Indonesian Red Cross spokeswoman Fitriana Sidika said on Wednesday.
Three New Zealand yachtsmen who had not been heard from since the tsunami turned up safe and sound, their families said on Friday.
The Indonesian archipelago has dozens of active volcanoes and straddles major tectonic fault lines from the Indian to the Pacific oceans. The 2004 Asian tsunami killed almost 170,000 people in Indonesia alone.