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Indonesia lowers alert level at Merapi volcano YOGYAKARTA - An Indonesian state agency monitoring Mount Merapi has lowered the volcano's alert status after a decrease in emissions, officials at the vulcanology centre said on Tuesday. Merapi in central Java, near the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta, is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Pacific "Ring of Fire". It has threatened a major eruption for weeks, forcing evacuation of thousands from its slopes.

"Merapi's status was lowered from 'alert' to 'prepared'," Triyani, a vulcanologist at the Centre for Volcanological Research and Technology, told Reuters. The centre also recommended that the government let evacuees return home. Some residents who had refused to move were spurred into action after an earthquake shook the Yogyakarta area, 440 km east of Jakarta, on May 27, killing more than 5,700 and intensifying volcanic activity.

But after spewing out massive gas clouds and fresh lava flows late last week, Merapi has calmed down. Experts feared that a lava dome, building since April due to increased activity, could collapse, generating clouds of gas and lava flows that could cause fatalities. However, a partial degradation of the dome last week relieved pressure and reduced the danger, the volcano centre's chief said.

"The remaining dome is going through a depression. With an indentation at the lava dome, the risk from large emissions of hot clouds or a collapsing sector becomes smaller," Antonius Ratdomopurbo told a news conference on Tuesday. He said the hot clouds had not stopped cascading down the mountain's slope but at the moment they were far from the villages in Merapi's foothills.

The clouds, locally dubbed the 'shaggy goat' because of their shape and colour, killed more than 60 people when Merapi last erupted in 1994, while 1,300 died in a 1930 eruption. Ratdomopurbo warned residents not to work near some of the rivers that stream from the sides of the country's most active volcano. "The prohibition stands because the threat from the hot clouds still exists. Whenever there are increased activities at Merapi, the status will be reviewed," he said.

The rich volcanic soil around Merapi produces abundant grass which villagers feed to their dairy cattle and the sand brought down by rivers can be used for construction work. Many local residents have held prayers and made special offerings to placate the angry mountain. Most Javanese, the bulk of Indonesia's 220 million people, are Muslim, but many cling to a spiritual past and believe a supernatural kingdom exists on top of Merapi.

Despite the danger, some stayed behind in their villages to look after their homes, cows and farms where they grow maize, red chillies and tomatoes. Some said they would only leave if they saw what they regard as natural signs that an eruption was imminent, such as lightning around the mountain's peak or animals moving down its slopes.


Link to related event Related event:
Eruptive Mount Merapi

Related blog entries (category 'Volcanoes') Related blog entries (category 'Volcanoes'):
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10 June 2006 · Merapi activity slows down, but still dangerous
08 June 2006 · Merapi spews lava and gas in large eruption
07 June 2006 · Bashir to be freed within days
07 June 2006 · 11,000 evacuated as Mount Merapi volcano spews ash and lava
06 June 2006 · Merapi volcano lava dome raises eruption concerns
04 June 2006 · China delivers more aid to quake-hit Indonesia
30 May 2006 · Hopes wane for Java quake survivors
29 May 2006 · Supplies arrive in Javanese quake zone
24 May 2006 · Mount Merapi spews more heat clouds and lava


Posted in Volcanoes @ 13 June 2006 15:28 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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