JAKARTA, Nov 2 (Reuters) Indonesia's Mount Kelud volcano in East Java is in a critical phase and could erupt any time a day after being shaken by hundreds of tremors, the country's top volcanic expert said today.
Authorities raised the alert at Mount Kelud, one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanoes, to maximum two weeks ago amid signs of an imminent eruption.
''Kelud is in a critical phase. It could erupt now,'' Surono, head of Indonesia's centre for Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, told Reuters by telephone from the capital Jakarta.
Yesterday, another official said there had been more than 600 hundred tremors recorded and hundreds of residents had evacuated.
Thousands of people had already left from a 10-km zone around Kelud since the alert was first raised, but many had returned home, fearing for the safety of their possessions.
Umar Rosadi, a vulcanologist at the volcano monitoring post near Kelud, said on Thursday that magma was 700 metres 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.
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.
Reuters SZ DB1212