Surge in tremors at Indonesia's Kelud volcano

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SUGIHWARAS, Indonesia, Nov 1 (Reuters) Hundreds more people have been evacuated from around Indonesia's Mount Kelud volcano in East Java today after more than 600 hundred tremors were recorded, an official said.

Authorities raised the alert at Mount Kelud, one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanoes, to maximum two weeks ago amid signs of an imminent eruption.

''There have been more tremors than at the time we increased the alert to the highest level last month,'' said Umar Rosadi, a vulcanologist at the volcano monitoring post.

After the alert was raised, thousands of people were evacuated from a 10-km (6-mile) zone around Kelud, but many had returned home, fearing for the safety of their possessions.

Rosadi said magma was 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the crater and could shoot out if it had enough energy.

Some residents living on the slopes of the volcano have refused to leave, saying they know how to take care of themselves in the event of an eruption.

Their representatives have signed an agreement with officials stating that they will not hold the government responsible should anything happen to them.

Meanwhile, thousands of people are at risk from volcanic lahar on Mount Guntur in West Java as dams built to collect the material on the slopes start to overflow, officials warned.

The amount of lahar, a mix of mud and lava, from Mount Guntur has swelled after heavy rains and as locals continued to mine sand and stones, said Saut Simatupang, an official with Indonesia's Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.

''The volcano is active but there's no increased intensity.

What we are concerned (with) is a possible flow of lahar from the dams. We already issued a recommendation for evacuation two weeks ago,'' Simatupang said.

The 2,249-metre (7,378-feet) volcano in Garut district, which lies 200 km (125 miles) southeast of the capital Jakarta, is popular with tourists for its hot springs and waterfalls.

Garut police chief Eko Budi said not enough had been done to prepare for a possible disaster and about 6,000-10,000 people were at risk.

Indonesia has faced a series of deadly natural disasters in recent years and has the highest number of active volcanoes of any country. It sits on a belt of intense volcanic and seismic activity know as the ''Pacific Ring of Fire''.

Indonesian officials were also closely monitoring three other volcanoes for increased activity.

The second-highest alert has also been issued for Mount Anak Krakatau, which has been throwing up showers of ash.

The volcano, known as the ''Child of Krakatau'', lies in the Sunda strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra and is about 130 km (80 miles) west of the capital Jakarta.

It gradually formed after the famous Krakatau volcano blew up in a massive eruption in 1883, triggering tsunamis and killing thousands of people.

Simatupang said there had been increased activity on the volcano, but it was not a big danger to people.

People have been advised to stay out of a 3-km zone around the volcano, where tourists often land from small boats to scramble up its newly formed slopes.

Alerts have also been issued for Mount Soputan, in North Sulawesi, which erupted last week spewing columns of ash 1,000 metres, and Mount Karangetang off Sulawesi.

REUTERS PJ HT1710

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