October 31, 2010 in Nation/World

Volcano calms, allowing villagers to return home

Slamet Riyadi Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Mount Merapi spews volcanic smoke in Cangkringan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday, but the violent bursts and rumbling of the last two days had stopped.
(Full-size photo)

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Thousands of villagers returned to their homes along the slopes of Indonesia’s most volatile volcano today, taking advantage of an eerie lull following its most powerful eruption in a deadly week to check on crops and livestock.

Scientists warned, however, that the notoriously unpredictable mountain could burst back to life at any minute.

On the other side of the archipelago, aid deliveries to survivors of a tsunami that barreled into the Mentawai islands one week ago, killing at least 449 people, were expected to resume today, thanks to a break in stormy weather that had grounded planes and ships.

A teenage girl with an open chest wound was among those waiting for help.

The simultaneous catastrophes have severely tested the emergency response network in Indonesia, which lies in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a cluster of fault lines prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Mount Merapi, which means “Fire Mountain,” unleashed a terrifying 21-minute eruption early Saturday, forcing the temporary closure of a nearby airport and contributing to the death of a woman who crashed on her motorcycle during a chaotic last-minute evacuation.

Two other people hospitalized with burn injuries died overnight, said Nelis Zuliastri of the National Disaster Management Agency, bringing the death toll from the volcano’s activity to 38.

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