Thursday, April 20, 2006

From minor to major volcanic eruptions

The area around Mount Merapi in central Java has been put on the second highest level of alert, one below that needed to trigger a compulsory evacuation.

For the past few days, Mount Merapi has been in an angry mood, spewing smoke into the air and rumbling ominously.

Some 29,000 people have been told to be ready to evacuate their villages and emergency shelters have been set up.

On the northern approach road to the volcano, farmers are out in the fields tending their crops of rice, vegetables and chillies as usual.

Merapi is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, producing major eruptions roughly once a decade.

The last fatal explosion was in 1994, when 60 people were killed by clouds of burning gas.
After the tsunami disaster just over a year ago, the Indonesian government moved to improve its disaster preparedness and has already released emergency funds in case the worst happens here.

But nobody can say for certain when or if Merapi will blow.

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