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Updated: October 26, 2010 02:44 IST

Indonesia on high volcano alert

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Danger zone:People leaving a village located near Mount Merapi (seen in the background) in Central Java on Monday.
Photo: AFP Danger zone:People leaving a village located near Mount Merapi (seen in the background) in Central Java on Monday.

Indonesia ordered thousands of people to evacuate from around Mount Merapi on Monday as it raised the alert for its most active volcano to red, warning of a possible imminent eruption.

Seismic activity has escalated dramatically at the volcano on the densely populated island of Java, with increasing lava spurts and about 500 multi-phased volcanic earthquakes recorded over the weekend, said officials.

The state office of volcanology had upgraded its alert level to red at 6.00 a.m. (2300 GMT), signalling an eruption could be imminent.

“The magma has been pushed upwards due to the escalating seismic energy and it's about a kilometre below the crater,” said government volcanologist Surono.

About 19,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate a danger zone of 10 km from the crater of the 2,914-metre mountain. About 3,000 have already moved to makeshift camps, said officials.

Merapi — whose name means “Mountain of Fire” — has been blanketed with clouds since the morning.

The volcano is the most active of 69 volcanoes with histories of eruptions in Indonesia, which straddles major seismic fault lines in a region known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”. Mount Merapi last erupted in June 2006 killing two people.

Its deadliest eruption occurred in 1930 when more than 1,300 people were killed. Heat clouds from another eruption in 1994 killed more than 60 people. In August, the 2,460-metre Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra erupted for the first time in 400 years, sending thousands of people into temporary shelters. — AFP

Keywords: Indonesia quake

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