MOUNT MERAPI (Indonesia): Indonesia's most volatile volcano nearly enveloped a village with a searing gas cloud during an eruption on Wednesday and forced thousands of residents to evacuate just a day after officials lowered the alert level and people returned home. ``The situation is ... life-threatening,'' said an official, after the alert level for Mount Merapi was raised to its highest status again and the peak dumped thick ash on scores of houses.

State news agency Antara reported five villagers were unaccounted for after the eruption, but gave no more details. Other media reports said several apparently uninhabited buildings close to the peak had been incinerated.

Scientists had thought that the 9,700-ft volcano was calming down after weeks of activity when a gas cloud cracked its fragile lava dome last Thursday.