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Indonesian volcano spews hot clouds as thousands are evacuated

Mount Merapi in Indonesia spews volcanic steam from its crater Thursday.
Indonesia’s Mt. Merapi spews volcanic steam from its crater Thursday morning.
(Taufiq Rozzaq / Associated Press)

Indonesia’s Mt. Merapi volcano spewed giant plumes of hot clouds Thursday as hundreds more residents were evacuated from its fertile slopes.

Authorities evacuated more than 500 people living on the mountain in Magelang district on Java Island. Thousands of people already have had to leave their homes and farmland because of the dangers on Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano.

Light eruptions continued during the day, one of which sent a column of hot cloud 200 yards into the air. The initial eruption was obscured by fog, but using seismic and other data, the Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development Center estimated that the hot cloud spread less than 0.6 miles from the crater.

The center raised the alert level of Mt. Merapi to the second-highest rating in November after sensors picked up increasing activity. Tourism and mining activities were halted.

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Some evacuees had returned to the slopes after the activity subsided but were forced to leave again Thursday.

The 9,737-foot mountain is about 18 miles from the city of Yogyakarta. About a quarter of a million people live within six miles of the volcano, according to authorities in surrounding districts.

Lava is rising more than three feet per hour in the crater of Hawaii’s Kilauea, which began erupting over the weekend for the first time in two years.

Merapi spewed ash and hot gas in a column as tall as 3.7 miles in June, but no casualties were reported.

Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people and caused the evacuation of 20,000 villagers.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.


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