Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Indonesian volcano has erupted!

One of Indonesia's deadliest volcanos began erupting Saturday, according to seismic readings, but there was no visual confirmation because the peak was cloaked in fog, a senior government volcanologist said.

Panicked residents fled the mountain's slopes in police trucks and volcano monitors abandoned their posts Saturday, witnesses said.

Although no lava or ash could be seen, seismic readings showed Mount Kelud, in the heart of densely populated Java island, was erupting, said Saut Simatupang, a leading scientist with Indonesia's Volcanology Center.

Hundreds of underground tremors have shaken the area and the temperature of its crater lake has reached the highest level since the mountain was put on high alert several weeks ago.

In 1990, Mt. Kelud killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds. In 1919, a powerful explosion that could be heard hundreds of miles away destroyed dozens of villages and killed at least 5,160.

Scientists fear a buildup of magma under the crater lake could trigger a violent blast, sending a torrent of mud, ash and rock careering down the side of the 1,731-meter (5,679-foot) mountain. On Thursday, police went door-to-door and used megaphones to order villagers to flee to tent camps.

More than 100,000 people living in areas considered to be at risk were ordered from their homes, but most never left or had returned, officials say.

Some who stayed behind were asked to sign a statement saying they would not seek compensation funds if they were injured or lost family members due to an eruption, said local community leader chief Susiadi, who also goes by a single name.

Indonesia has about 100 active volcanos, more than any nation.

The country is spread across 17,500 islands and is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire'' _ a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

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