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Indonesians eager to return to homes on volcano's slopes

Indonesia volcano death toll rises to 25: officials
Mount Merapi, Indonesia (AFP) Oct 27, 2010 - The death toll from the eruption of Indonesia's Mount Merapi rose to 25 on Wednesday, including an elder known as the volcano's spiritual gatekeeper, officials said. The traditional gatekeeper, Mbah or grandfather Marijan, was found dead in his burnt house about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the peak, local officials said. "At least 25 people were killed, including Mbah Marijan. A reporter and two volunteers were also killed," said Banu Hermawan, spokesman for Sardjito hospital in nearby Yogyakarta. No eruptions had been recorded since Tuesday when Mount Merapi, which means "Mountain of Fire", sent searing gas and molten lava into the sky on at least 10 occasions, a government expert said. "Although Merapi has not erupted again since yesterday, people should remain in shelters," volcanologist Surono said.

Authorities may have saved many lives when they ordered thousands of people to flee from a 10-kilometre danger zone on Monday, after raising the threat level for the volcano to red, the highest possible. The order affected about 19,000 people but it was not clear how many had obeyed and moved to temporary shelters. The 2,914-metre (9,616-foot) Mount Merapi, 400 kilometres east of Jakarta, is the most active of the 69 volcanoes with histories of eruptions in Indonesia. It last erupted in June 2006 killing two people, but 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. The volcano has special significance for the people of Java island as it is one of four places where officials from the royal palaces of Yogyakarta and Solo make annual offerings to placate the spirits of Javanese mythology.
by Staff Writers
Umbulharjo, Indonesia (AFP) Oct 27, 2010
Unfazed by the threat of being vaporised by lava, villagers were desperately trying to return home Wednesday to Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano, after eruptions killed 29 people.

The 2,914-metre (9,616-foot) volcano near Yogyakarta in Central Java unleashed a series of violent eruptions on Tuesday, hurling molten rock, deadly heat clouds and fine ash across the neighbouring countryside.

Among the dead was an old man appointed by the sultan of Yogyakarta to act as the volcano's spiritual guardian, but the danger was not enough to keep local residents away for long.

At Umbulharjo village about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the volcano's smoking crater, police and volunteers were turning people away at a checkpoint on the road into the danger area.

Locals arrived on motorbikes with bundles of fresh grass for their livestock, saying they wanted to check their homes.

"People are going home with sacks of grass to feed their cows. Some say they need to see the condition of their houses while others want to pick up belongings as they don't have enough clothes at the shelters," said Wawan Fauzi, a villager manning the checkpoint.

Officials said the mountain, Indonesia's most active volcano, was quiet on Wednesday but warned the almost 30,000 people who have fled to temporary shelters not to go back for the time being.

Up to 7,000 more had ignored orders to evacuate the 10-kilometer exclusion zone.

"Many of them treated this matter lightly and didn't think the volcano would erupt, and even if it did they thought their homes wouldn't be affected," Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono told AFP.

"They're still in the danger zone but we're not forcing them to leave their homes. Now that they've heard the news about deaths we hope they'll want to come down."

Bardi Wiyono, 55, expressed concern for her five cows.

"I want to find grass to feed them and milk them," she said after arriving at the checkpoint on the back of a motorbike being driven by her son, only to be turned away.

"I'm actually still traumatised about what happened but I have a motorcycle and it will be fast for me to escape," she said when asked if she was scared of another eruption.

Government volcanologist Surono said it was too early to say whether it was safe for people to return.

"Merapi's volcanic activity has dropped significantly but the threat is still there," he said.

The mountain, which in Javanese tradition is sacred, killed two people when it last erupted in June 2006.

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.

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13 dead as Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano erupts
Yogyakarta, Indonesia (AFP) Oct 27, 2010
Indonesia's Mount Merapi erupted three times on Tuesday, killing at least 13 people and causing thousands to flee as it emitted searing clouds and volcanic ash. Twelve bodies were found by rescuers at a house near the volcano and a baby died elsewhere, with predictions that the toll was likely to rise. Before the latest eruptions people living in the shadow of Indonesia's most active vol ... read more

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