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Indonesian volcano erupts again as deaths reach 34

Fri., Oct. 29, 2010

Mourners weep at the funeral of Mbah Maridjan, the spiritual guardian of Mount Merapi, in  Indonesia, on Thursday.  (Associated Press)
Mourners weep at the funeral of Mbah Maridjan, the spiritual guardian of Mount Merapi, in Indonesia, on Thursday. (Associated Press)

SLEMAN, Indonesia – Indonesia’s Mount Merapi spewed clouds of ash into the air in new eruptions Thursday and today, a top vulcanologist said, as the death toll from an earlier eruption rose to 34.

Television footage showed plumes of dark smoke rising above the peak of the volcano, located on central Java island. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The National Disaster Management Agency said in a statement that the death toll from Tuesday’s eruption had risen to 34, with 30 injured and two missing.

Surono, head of the Center for Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, warned that despite the eruptions, the danger might not be over.

“The red alert remains in place, and it’s hard to predict what will happen next,” said Surono, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. “Therefore, we advise people to stay in emergency shelters.”

Earlier in the day, hundreds of people attended a funeral for 23 of the victims in Umbulharjo village near the city of Yogyakarta.

Among those buried was Mbah Maridjan, the spiritual keeper of the volcano, who was killed along with several others when searing volcanic debris slammed into their village.

His body was found in a prostrate position, as if praying.

Tuesday’s eruption occurred one day after authorities upgraded the volcano’s danger alert status to its highest level.

Jets of hot gas burned trees, crops and livestock and covered entire neighborhoods in gray ash.

Meanwhile, about 50 sand miners in Rahayu village on the eastern slope of the volcano returned to work despite a warning not to go near the 6-mile danger zone.

“We didn’t work for two days,” said Sugiyem, a 60-year-old woman who said she had been a sand miner for 30 years. “If we stop working, we won’t be able to eat.”

“This is the only job we have,” she said.

Sands from volcanic eruptions have created jobs for many living on Merapi’s flanks.


 

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