27 Oct 2010

Thousands flee erupting volcano in Java

9:14 pm on 27 October 2010

At least 29 people are reported to have been killed as a volcano erupted in Indonesia, prompting terrified villagers to flee and join the thousands already evacuated from its slopes.

Mt Merapi on Java island erupted on Tuesday evening, a day after the alert status was raised to the highest level.

Included among the death toll is an elder known as the volcano's spiritual gatekeeper. Mbah, or grandfather Marijan, was found dead in his burnt house about 4km from the peak.

The BBC cites local media saying emergency teams had found 12 bodies in the area close to the mountain, while AFP says the volcano had claimed the life of a three-month-old baby girl.

Adi Mulyanto, an emergency ward doctor at the Panti Nugroho Hospital in Sleman, told the Reuters news agency that at least six people had been badly burned by hot air bursting out of the volcano.

He said three of those had been rushed to hospital with burns to more than 80% of their bodies.

The mountain's peak was clouded with smoke, making it impossible to see if lava was spewing out, but ash was raining down on frightened residents.

Authorities had been trying since Monday to evacuate more than 11,000 villagers living on the volcano's slopes.

In a 1994 eruption, after the volcano's lava dome collapsed, 70 people were killed. The volcano killed 1,300 people in 1930.

In September, another Indonesian volcano, Mt Sinabung, on Sumatra island to the west, erupted after laying dormant for 400 years, forcing a mass evacuation.