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Indonesia volcano still shooting ash

by Staff Writers
Yogyakarta, Indonesia (AFP) Nov 11, 2010
Indonesia's most active volcano sent clouds of ash high into the sky Thursday after a series of major eruptions, with an alert status remaining in force, an official said.

"Merapi's intensity has slowed down, but small eruptions still occur and its status is still alert," government volcanologist Raden Sukhyar said.

"The volcano still belches ash. It shot ash up to 1,000 metres high at 6:00 am today (2300 GMT Wednesday), but the ash had no potential to reach anywhere other than the slope of Merapi," he said.

Since Mount Merapi began erupting in late October, a total of 194 people have died, according to Thursday's updated toll, and more than 360,000 people have been forced to live in makeshift camps outside the danger zone.

As a result of Indonesia's disasters in recent days, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he would curtail his attendance at two major international summits being held in East Asia this week.

Yudhoyono said he would attend only the second day of the G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday and only the first day of APEC talks in Yokohama, Japan, on Saturday.

Indonesia has also been struck by a tsunami, which killed more than 400 people and left thousands homeless after an earthquake struck off Sumatra island on October 25, the day before Merapi erupted on central Java.

At a ninth-century Buddhist temple complex near Merapi, the site's head of conservation said they would begin cleaning up the volcano's fallout on Friday.

Borobudur, the country's most popular tourist attraction, is only around 40 kilometres from Merapi and Marsis Sutopo said the site had been covered in ash from the eruptions.

"There is a layer of grey soot about two and half centimetres (one inch) thick covering Borobudur. We are worried the ash could soften the stones if we don't clean them soon," Sutopo said.

He said the clean-up would take about a week to complete.

The airport serving Yogyakarta, which lies around 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the volcano, has been closed until Monday because of the ash.

Although there has been no report of volcanic ash clouding the area around Jakarta, 430 kilometres to the west, dozens of international flights to and from capital's airport have also been cancelled for safety reasons.

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