Indonesians abandon plantations near volcano-media

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JAKARTA, Oct 24 (Reuters) Indonesian workers around the rumbling Mount Kelud volcano in East Java are unable to harvest cloves and coffee because they are being evacuated from the plantations, the Jakarta Post reported today.

The authorities are evacuating residents living within a 10-km zone around the 1,731-metre volcano to safer areas, as experts have warned Mount Kelud was liable to erupt.

The order to evacuate more than 100,000 people was made after an alert on one of the country's deadliest volcano -- which is 675 km east of the capital Jakarta but only 90 km southwest of Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya -- was raised to maximum last week.

Yohannes Slamet, the director of PT Tjandi Sewu, whose 650-hectare plantation lies just 5 km from the volcano, told the Jakarta Post that the firm had been forced to stop production even though it was harvest season for coffee and cloves.

''We are incurring daily losses of 4.6 million rupiah (503.5 dollars) for halting production, while having to continue paying the salaries of 70 employees and 400 contract workers,'' Slamet told the newspaper.

But some of Slamet's contract workers defied warnings and continued to work during the day to return to the shelter at night.

An estimated 350,000 people live within 10 km of the volcano, growing coffee, sugar cane, pineapples and papayas in the rich volcanic soil.

Indonesia's major cigarette maker PT Gudang Garam which has its main production facilities located about 25 kilometres west of Mount Kelud, said its production remains normal.

''There has been no significant impact so far despite what happens at Kelud. Both production and distribution remain normal,'' Gudang Garam spokeswoman Vidya Rahayu told Reuters late yesterday.

When Kelud last erupted in 1990 at least 30 people were killed, while in 1919 about 5,000 died as the volcano ejected scalding water from its crater lake.

Indonesia, which sits on a belt of intense seismic activity known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, has had a series of major volcanic eruptions over the centuries.

REUTERS ARB RAI1128

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