Merapi's volcanic activity increases

Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano showed signs of increased volcanic activity, and spewed gas clouds and ash rain with thundering sound just before dawn Monday, while some villagers were reluctant to leave their homes and stood by for evacuation.

The mountain "has exploded already," news reports quoted the head of the Merapi section at the Centre of Vulcanological Research and Technology in Yogyakarta as saying.

He cautioned that the mountain's eruption process could be gradual rather than a sudden burst.

However, another expert from the vulcanology office in Yogyakartahe said that this was still not considered an eruption of the volcano.

"It is only a sign of extraordinary activity," the expert said.

Scientists raised the alert status for Merapi last Saturday to the highest level after weeks of volcanic activity.

Indonesian authorities also ordered the evacuation of thousands of residents near Mount Merapi.

But some still refused to leave their homes gathering on road sides along the slopes of the volcano while others who have continued to return during the days to tend livestock, collect grass, or otherwise carry on their routines. And commercial mini-buses continued to run.

There are about 20,000 people living within the radius of 12 km from the slopes.

Merapi, rising from the plains of the densely populated Java Island, about 450 km southeast of Jakarta, is one of the 65 volcanoes listed as dangerous in Indonesia.

It has erupted several times, of which the most deadly one took place in 1930 killing 1,370 people. It also erupted in 1994, claiming the lives of at least 66 people, reports the AP.

I.L.