Friday, November 05, 2010


From the Associated Press:

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — Searing gas avalanched down an Indonesian volcano with a thunderous roar, torching houses and trees and incinerating villagers as they fled Mount Merapi's worst eruption in a century. Scores of bodies found Friday raised the death toll to 122.

The injured - with clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin by the 1,400 degree Fahrenheit (750 degree Celsius) heat - were carried away on stretchers following the first big explosion just before midnight.

All Friday, Merapi shot towering plumes of ash that dusted the windshields of cars 300 miles (480 kilometers) away. Bursts of hot clouds occasionally interrupted aid efforts, with rescuers screaming "Watch out! Hot cloud!"

The intensifying eruptions have baffled scientists who have monitored the mountain for years and left them uncertain what to expect. Dozens of explosions that followed Merapi's initial blast Oct. 26 had been predicted to ease pressure behind a magma dome.

The danger zone where residents have been ordered to flee has now been expanded to 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the crater.

Friday's explosion - said by volcanologists to be the biggest since the 1870s - hit hardest in Bronggang, a village nine miles (15 kilometers) from the crater. Soldiers joined the rescue operations, pulling at least 78 bodies from homes and streets blanketed by ash up to one foot (30 centimeters) deep.

 "We're totally overwhelmed here!" said Heru Nogroho, a spokesman at Sardjito.

In terms of the amount of volcanic material released - 1,765 million cubic feet (50 million cubic meter), "it was the biggest in at least a century," Gede Swantika, a state volcanologist, said as plumes of smoke continued to shoot up more than 30,000 feet (10,000 meters).

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