MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — One by one the bodies of dozens killed by Indonesia's most volatile volcano — some too charred to ever be identified — were placed into a mass grave Sunday, as people terrified that another eruption was coming fled the city at the foot of Mount Merapi.
As relatives wept and men recited traditional Islamic prayers, villagers and policemen unloaded the corpses — some in plain wooden coffins, others still in the morgue's yellow body bags — from ambulances. They were placed into a massive trench, dug into a large green field in the shadow of the volcano, which has claimed 138 lives in the past two weeks.
The notoriously unpredictable mountain unleashed its most powerful eruption in a century Friday, sending hot clouds of gas, rocks and debris down its slopes in an avalanche at highway speeds, smothering entire villages and leaving a trail of charred corpses in its path.
Concerns over the ash it spewed prompted international airlines to cancel flights to the capital of Jakarta just days before President Barack Obama's planned trip to Indonesia — his second stop in a 10-day Asian tour.
With more than 90 killed, Friday was the deadliest day at Merapi since 1930.