Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ready to evacuate volcano region

Indonesia was preparing yesterday to evacuate thousands of villagers living on the slopes of one its deadliest volcanos after warnings the rumbling mountain could blow its top at any time.

Increased activity at Mount Merapi on the island of
Java has prompted volcanologists to raise its warning status to "Beware," one notch below the highest level, which would require immediate evacuation of the thousands of villagers who farm its fertile slopes.

"We are on alert so that if Merapi is about to erupt, we can arrange the evacuation of villagers," said government volcanologist Heru Suparwoko.

Local officials were preparing dozens of trucks and stocking up on medicines to be used at temporary shelters, Suparwoko said. He was speaking by telephone from an observation station overlooking the 2,968-meter (9,737-foot) mountain.

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