Indonesia boost alert status at volcano

Indonesia raised the alert status of a massive volcano on Java Island to the second-highest level, warning increased activity at its crater means it could erupt anytime, a volcanologist said Thursday.

Monitors have been watching Merapi closely for several weeks, and late Wednesday raised its status to "Beware," one notch below the highest level that requires immediate evacuation of villagers living on its slopes.

"An eruption could happen at any time," said Heru Suparogo, from a monitoring station overlooking the crater of the 2,968-meter (9,737-feet) mountain.

Suparogo said instruments in the crater have recorded an increase in quakes inside the mountain, which he said were a sign that an eruption was likely.

The mountain was also spewing smoke some 250 meters (820 feet) into the air, much higher than normal, another indication it might blow its top, he said.

Villagers living nearby have already been told to prepare for a possible evacuation.

Merapi is one of the most active of at least 129 volcanoes in Indonesia. The country is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire",  a series of volcanoes and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

Merapi's last major eruption was in 1994, killing at least 43 people.

It is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital, Jakarta, reports the AP.


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