Volcano Indonesia again 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Indonesia — Indonesia's most volatile volcano — one of 22 that have been increasingly active — spewed searing clouds of gas and debris for hours Monday in its most powerful eruption in a deadly week. No new casualties were immediately reported.
RELATED:Hundreds more feared dead in Indonesia tsunami Indonesia volcano spews searing ash after lull
Hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the west, a break in the weather helped rescuers get aid to victims of an 18-foot (six meter) -high tsunami that slammed into several remote islands, sweeping entire villages to sea.
The twin disasters, unfolding simultaneously on opposite ends of the seismically active country, have killed nearly 500 people and severely tested the government's emergency response network. In both events, the military has been called in to help.
Mount Merapi, one of nearly 200 active volcanoes in Indonesia, has erupted many times in the last two centuries, often with deadly results. In 1994, 60 people were killed, while in 1930, more than a dozen villages were incinerated, leaving up to 1,300 dead. The latest eruption has killed 38 since it started a week ago.
Almost all villagers living along Mount Merapi's fertile slopes have been evacuated to crowded refugee camps well away from the base, some screaming and crying as they were carried away by camouflaged soldiers.
During lulls in activity, some have returned to their homes to check on
livestock and crops, but there were no indications any had been hurt in
Monday's blast, said Waluyo Rahardjo, a National Search and Rescue
The eruption was accompanied by several deafening explosions.
More than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the west, meanwhile, a C-130
transport plane, six helicopters and four motorized boats were ferrying
aid to the most distant corners of the Mentawai Islands, where last
week's tsunami destroyed hundreds of homes, schools, churches and
A military chopper had evacuated badly injured survivors Sunday who had
languished in an overwhelmed hospital with only paracetamol to ease
their pain, said Ade Edward, a disaster management official. Among them
was a baby girl born in a shelter after the tsunami and a 12-year-old
girl with a life-threatening chest wound.
Relief efforts were halted Saturday by stormy weather and rough seas.
"We're really glad to finally see the relief workers, doctors and rescue
teams able to reach devastated areas," Edward said, adding that two
navy ships arrived with many more police and soldiers deployed to speed
up relief efforts.
The tsunami death toll had reached 450 by Monday, said Nelis Zuliastri
from the National Disaster Management Agency, with the number of missing
now less than 100.
Indonesia, a vast island nation of 235 million people, straddles a
series of fault lines and volcanoes known as the Pacific "Ring of Fire"
and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The fault line in the earth's surface that hatched the 7.7 magnitude
quake and the wave that followed one week ago — and also the 2004
tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries — is the meeting
point of the Eurasian and Pacific tectonic plates that have been
pushing against and under each other for millions of years, causing huge
stresses to build up. It runs the length of the west coast of Sumatra
There is some debate as to whether seismic activity like the
7.7-magnitude quake that spawned last week's tsunami can trigger
volcanic eruptions. But with Merapi's eruption 24 hours after that
tremor, the government wasn't taking chances.
It has raised alert levels of 21 other volcanoes — many of which have
shown an increase in activity, rumbling and belching out heavy black ash
— to the second- and third- highest levels in the last two months,
mostly as a precaution, said Syamsul Rizal, a state volcanologist.
Indonesia has several volcanos smoldering at any given time, but another
government volcanologist Gede Swantika said there are normally only
five to 10 on the third-highest alert level, indicating an increase in
seismic and other activity, and none at all at the second-highest,
signifying an eruption is possible within two weeks. He said monitors
noticed more volcanos were exhibiting seismic activity starting
"We can say this is quite extraordinary, about 20 at the same time,"
Swantika said. "We have to keep an eye on those mountains. ... But I
cannot say or predict which will erupt. What we can do is monitor
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