Hundreds evacuated as Indonesian volcano spews hot clouds

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia – Mount Merapi volcano in Indonesia spewed avalanches of hot clouds on Thursday morning as hundreds more residents were evacuated from its fertile slopes.

Authorities evacuated more than 500 people who lived on the mountain in Magelang District on Java Island. Thousands of people have already had to leave their homes and farmland because of the dangers on Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano.

During the day, light eruptions continued – one sent a column of hot clouds that rose 200 meters into the air. The initial eruption was obscured by fog, but using seismic and other data, the Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development Center estimated that the hot clouds were spreading less than 1 km from the crater.

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“So far, the potential danger is no more than 3 miles,” said Hanik Humaida, chief of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Mitigation in Yogyakarta, in a statement.

The geological agency raised Mount Merapi’s alert level to the second highest level in November after the sensors recorded increasing activity. Tourism and mining activities were discontinued.

Some evacuees had returned to the slopes after the end of the activity, but had to leave on Thursday.

The 9,737 foot mountain is located about 18 miles from Yogyakarta city center. About a quarter of a million people live within 6 miles of the volcano, according to authorities in the surrounding counties.

Merapi spat ashes and hot gas in a column up to 3 miles into the sky in June, but no casualties were reported.

In its last major eruption in 2010, 347 people were killed and 20,000 villagers were evacuated.

Indonesia, an archipelago with more than 250 million inhabitants, lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

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