Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mount Merapi now displays eruptions of lava

Mount Merapi in Indonesia's densely populated central Java, considered to be one of the world's most active volcanoes, continued spewing blazed lava and shooting thick white smoke up to 800 metres into the air, experts said on Sunday.

Volcanologists at a nearby monitoring post warned that residents living in the danger zones of the Merapi volcano should be aware of the dangers if the volcano releases hot and poisonous clouds or lava flows.

Triyani, an official at the Merapi's monitoring centre, said visual monitors and seismic measurements show a lava dome continues to grow significantly as more molten material moves to the volcano's crater vent.

Molten lava continued flowing as far as 100 metres from the volcano's crater, Triyani said, adding that Merapi also emitting thick of white smoke up to 800-metres high.

Merapi has been heating up since more than three weeks ago and volcanologists raised the alert status to level three on April 12.

Triyani said Merapi's alert status remained unchanged at level three, one stage below that which would require a mandatory evacuation for around 30,000 villagers living in the area.

'We have still maintain the alert status at one below the top level, but we're boosting our monitoring due to the Merapi's latest significant increase of activity,' Triyani told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Volcanologists also said the frequency of the 'multiphase tremors' on the volcano had been fluctuating and were still occurring at high rates.

Volcanic eruptions are often preceded by an increased number of earthquakes, experts said, adding that lava outflows, combined with the emergence of fixed burning spots are among signs of imminent eruption.

The volcanologists warned that the collapse of a lava dome could cause superheated streams of gas to travel down the mountain sides, and believed the next eruption would be much greater than previous explosions in recent years.

During the last eruption in 1994 hot gas clouds, locally called 'shaggy goats,' travelled at fast speed several kilometres down from the summit and killed at least 66 people, mostly from horrific burns.

More than 5,000 residents have already been evacuated to temporary shelters, but many thousands of others have been reluctant to leave the mountain, preferring to take the advice of local mystics who believe Merapi will only erupt after certain omens come, including mysterious beams of light shining over its steep flanks.

The 2,968-metre-high Merapi, about 450 kilometres southeast of Jakarta, is one of 65 volcanoes listed as dangerous in Indonesia. The volcano's most deadly eruption took place in 1930, when 1,370 people were killed.

Indonesia has the world's highest density of volcanoes, with 500 located in a so-called 'Ring of Fire,' along the 5,000-kilometres wide archipelago nation. Of these, 128 are active.

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