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Indonesia volcano erupts again as tsunami aid is hampered

by Staff Writers
North Pagai, Indonesia (AFP) Oct 30, 2010
Indonesia's Mount Merapi burst into life again Saturday as a loud explosion sent frightened locals scurrying to safety and sprayed ash over a wide area.

Police, soldiers and locals took to the roads in panic as the volcano erupted violently, sparking fears of a repeat of the deadly explosions earlier this week that are now known to have claimed at least 36 lives.

No one was killed in the eruption on Saturday, but hospital staff reported two people had died in the chaotic evacuation.

Hundreds of kilometres (miles) away, emergency workers battled to reach villages wiped out by the tsunami that smashed into an island chain in the west of the country.

Bad weather and logistical problems hampered efforts to deliver aid to remote islands off the coast of Sumatra where a major earthquake triggered a tsunami on Monday, smashing villages and killing at least 413 people.

The two disasters have displaced more than 60,000 people -- 13,000 on the tsunami-stricken Mentawai islands and around 50,000 in central Java where a 10-kilometre (six mile) exclusion zone has been set up around the volcano.

Aid workers said the tsunami crushed at least 10 villages, mainly along the beaches of North and South Pagai islands, and officials fear the final death toll could exceed 600.

Aid had started to be dropped from helicopters on Friday, but aviation fuel shortages, stormy weather and poor communications on the largely undeveloped Mentawais were hampering the relief effort.

"We've started sending relief supplies, which are still limited but enough for the people to survive," national search and rescue spokesman Gagah Prakoso said.

Many victims were sucked out to sea as the tsunami receded and have already been buried by their loved ones. Others remain unclaimed under fallen trees or rotting in piles of mangled debris.

Survivors in a village reached by an AFP photographer said as many as 30 of the community's 100 children had been killed.

The wall of water was around three metres (10 feet) high and roared into the little coastal communities without warning, smashing schools, mosques and flimsy traditional houses up to 500 metres (yards) inland.

Dave Jenkins of independent health agency SurfAid International, which is based in the Mentawais, said bad weather was making a "severely challenging situation... a lot worse".

"We need to keep people alive, warm and fed, and fight disease outbreaks. After that we can move into the reconstruction phase," he said.

"It's challenging and people need to coordinate much better."

The latest official death toll from the tsunami, triggered by a 7.7-magnitude quake, stood at 413, with 298 still listed as missing. Officials said as many as 200 of the missing were not expected to be found alive.

In central Java, soldiers and police posted near Mount Merapi were sent scrambling for safety on Saturday morning when the volcano began erupting again.

"I heard several sounds like thunder. I was so scared I was shaking," said 42-year-old Mukinem, who was heading away from the volcano on a motorcycle with her husband and two young children.

A local hospital spokesman said the toll from the volcano eruptions earlier this week had risen.

"A total of 38 people have been killed because of burn injuries and accidents since the 26th. Two of them, an adult woman and a one-year-old boy, died because of accidents," Sardjito hospital spokesman Arif Novianto said.

Government volcanologist Subandrio said the new eruption was another

reminder that 2,914-metre Mount Merapi, which means "Mountain of Fire",

remained "extremely dangerous".

He said the government had to be "more serious" about enforcing the exclusion zone amid persistent reports of people leaving displacement camps to tend to their livestock on the mountain's slopes.

"We will even have to evaluate whether we need to widen the exclusion zone because we should not downplay the threat -- Mount Merapi is extremely dangerous," he said.

Volcanic ash rained down on Yogyakarta airport, 26 kilometres away, shutting it down for over an hour as workers cleared the runway.

"The runway of the airport was covered with volcanic ash. We had to close the operation for about an hour as the ash could get inside aeroplane engines," transport ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said.

Australia has announced assistance of about one million US dollars while the European Commission has pledged two million dollars.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations stood ready to assist. The United States and several Asian countries have also offered help.

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Indonesian volcano emits ash and lava
Kali Kuning, Indonesia (AFP) Oct 29, 2010
An Indonesian volcano that erupted and killed 32 people earlier this week spewed ash and lava early Friday. Government volcanologists said the activity was not a fresh eruption and could help to stabilize Mount Merapi, in Central Java province, following its series of deadly eruptions on Tuesday. "It shot heat clouds at 6:10 am (1110 GMT Thursday) as far as 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) dow ... read more

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