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Volcano chasers move in as locals flee rumbling Merapi KALIURANG - On the steaming slopes of Indonesia's mount Merapi, villagers fleeing their paddy fields pass tourists on the way up. The 2 914m volcano has been rumbling for more than three weeks and started oozing lava this month, prompting scientists to warn the pressure cooker could soon start spewing molten rock and clouds of gas and dust.

Kaliurang village, some 6km from the crater, lies just before the restricted area leading to the summit. Numerous residents, especially the very young and the elderly, have already fled the area. But others, either keen to remain with their crops and livestock, or to cash in on the area's latest tourist attraction, are staying put.

Christian Awuy (60), the owner of the Vogels hotel built in 1926 by the former Dutch colonists, is rubbing his hands in glee. Since the volcano started showing renewed signs of life, he has taken reservations from Germany, Britain and the United States. "When the volcano is active, there are foreign tourists. As for Indonesian tourists, they are afraid," he said as he dealt with four French tourists who came to see the lava trails that flow across the mountain's slopes at night.

Awuy employs two guides and prides himself on knowing the safest routes across the volcano, including the area that local authorities say is too dangerous to visit. But even he has his limits and refuses to go within 3km of the dome puffing out clouds of steam. But for some budding vulcanologists, even that is not close enough. "There are lava hunters. They have satellite positioning systems, boots with special soles and fireproof clothes," says Awuy.

If it erupts, the strato-volcano is likely to start belching nuees ardentes, a geological term for clouds of volcanic gases, ash, and dust reaching temperatures up to 500C. "There has never been an eruption of Merapi without nuees ardentes," says Ratdomo Purbo from the agency assessing volcanic and geological risks in Indonesia. The possible collapse of the thick dome of lava, which has grown 75m in two weeks, is a major danger.

"From May 4 to 9 there was a rapid growth in the dome, with a daily flux of 150 000cu m" of lava, Purbo says. The catastrophic tsunami of 2004 showed just how poorly prepared Indonesia's authorities were in dealing with such a disaster. The lesson has yet to be learnt in the case of Merapi. "We need masks, because we only have four," says Suseno from the crisis prevention co-ordination cell in Yogyakarta.

If the alert level, which has been at "standby" for more than three weeks, is lifted one notch, authorities will be forced to order the mandatory evacuation of some 22 000 residents. Yesterday, Vice President Yusuf Kalla ordered that about 17 000 residents begin evacuation despite the alert level remaining stable.

8 May 2006: More lava trails spewed from the peak of Indonesia's simmering Mount Merapi in a further sign of an impending eruption.
8 May 2006: More lava trails spewed from the peak of Indonesia's simmering Mount Merapi in a further sign of an impending eruption.



Link to related event Related event:
Eruptive Mount Merapi

Related blog entries (category 'Volcanoes') Related blog entries (category 'Volcanoes'):
11 May 2006 · Evacuation as Mt. Merapi volcano spews molten lava
11 May 2006 · Hundreds return to slopes of Javanese volcano
08 May 2006 · Scientist: Dome shape of Mt Merapi changing quickly
08 May 2006 · Molten lava continue flows from Mount Merapi
05 May 2006 · Lava spills into valley


Posted in Volcanoes @ 12 May 2006 19:12 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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