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Indonesia raises alert of volcano to maximum

Written by: Staff

Jakarta, May 13: Indonesia today raised the alert status of Mount Merapi to its highest level and ordered the compulsory evacuation of thousands of residents living on the slopes of the volcano, a government vulcanologist said.

''This morning we raised the status of Merapi to the top alert which is the red code. Every resident has been ordered to evacuate,'' Subandrio, head of the Merapi section at the Centre for Volcanological Research and Technology Development, told Reuters.

He said more lava had been spewing out of Merapi's crater as well as smoke but he could not say when the volcano would erupt.

Merapi lies near ancient city of Yogyakarta in the centre of Java island. The volcano killed 70 people in a 1994 eruption and 1,300 in 1930.

Indonesia, which has the world's highest density of volcanoes, has already moved about 1,300 people away from Merapi, but officials put the total number of residents on and near the mountain at around 14,000, which includes villages in Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces.

Most of those relocated are women, children and the elderly. Some return to their homes near the volcano during the day to feed livestock, local officials say.

Some villagers living on the slopes or in the shadows of Mount Merapi say they will stay put until nature sends signals, or the government forces them to leave. Many fear losing property and livestock if they go.

Residents say signals would include lightning around the mountain's peak or animals moving down its slopes.

Some locals consider the mountain sacred, and every year a priest climbs to the top to make an offering.


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