Lava begins flowing down slopes of Merapi volcano in Indonesia

Red-hot lava began flowing from the crater of Indonesia's rumbling volcano Mount Merapi early Thursday as vulcanologists warned residents to heighten their alert because an eruption may be imminent.

Burning streams of molten lava started pouring down the slopes at 2 a.m. local time (1900 GMT Wednesday), said the head of the volcano's monitoring office, indicating a possible eruption.

Residents still near the 2,957-meter (9,700-foot) peak were urged to leave immediately, even though officials said they were not yet raising the alert to the highest level.

"The volcano has shown significantly more activity," said Subandriyo, the chief of Merapi's Volcanology and Monitoring offices, who goes by a single name.

The mountain, one of Indonesia's most active, remained a "phase three" volcano, he said. Phase three is the second highest of four levels of volcanic activity, with phase one the highest level.

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

It last erupted in 1994, sending out a searing cloud of gas that burned 60 people to death. About 1,300 people were killed when it erupted in 1930, reports the AP.

I.L.