Soldiers loaded men, women and crying children into trucks as rocks and debris hurled in the air and down the mountain’s slopes. The danger zone was widened from 10 kilometers from the glowing crater to 15 kilometers.
Indonesia’s deadly volcano erupted on Wednesday with its biggest blast yet, shooting searing ash miles into the sky and forcing the hasty evacuations of panicked villagers and emergency shelters near the base of the mountain.
Soldiers loaded men, women and crying children into trucks as rocks and debris hurled in the air and down the mountain’s slopes. No new casualties were reported immediately after the booming explosion that lasted more than an hour.
“This is an extraordinary eruption, triple from the first” on Oct. 26, said Mr Surono, a state volcanologist.
Tens of thousands of villagers have been evacuated from Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, since it began erupting just over a week ago, killing 38 people, most from severe burns.
The danger zone was widened on Wednesday from 10 kilometers from the glowing crater to 15 kilometers because of the heightened threat.
“I (didn’t) think of anything else except to save my wife and son. We left my house and everything,” said Tentrem Wahono, 50, who lives in Kaliurang village, about 10 kilometers from the peak. He and his family fled on a motorbike, “racing with the explosive sounds as the searing ash chased us from behind.”
The last eruption has raised Merapi’s status to “crisis” condition, said Andi Arief, a special staff at the presidential office dealing with disaster and social assistance.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanos because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific.
As a reminder of that, a 6.1-magnitude quake hit waters off the eastern province of Papua on Wednesday evening, rattling several villages but causing no known damage or casualties.
The volcano’s initial blast on Oct. 26 occurred less than 24 hours after a towering tsunami slammed into remote islands on the western end of the country, sweeping entire villages to sea and killing at least 428 people. In both cases, relief operations are expected to take weeks, possibly months.