Yogyakarta. Indonesia’s most dangerous volcano is once again sending searing gas clouds and burning rocks down its scorched flanks.
No casualties were reported in Mount Merapi’s latest blasts Wednesday, which came as Indonesia struggled to respond to an earthquake-generated tsunami that devastated a remote chain of islands last week.
Thousands of people living along Merapi’s slopes have been evacuated to government-run camps well away from the base.
Safari Dwiyono, a state volcanologist, said the new eruption started at 8:11 a.m. It spewed gas and rocks three miles (five kilometers) down the mountain’s slopes.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanos because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific.
Merapi has killed 38 people in the last week and prompted the government Tuesday to order airlines to choose routes circumventing the towering dark ash on takeoff and landing.
Several international flights have been canceled.
Dwiyono believes the volcano will continue to spew out gas and rocks for weeks, possibly months, easing pressure building up inside the crater.
“There’s no way of knowing for sure, of course,” he said. “But based on what we’ve seen in the last few days, we’re hoping there won’t be a massive explosion”
More than 1,300 kilometers to the west, helicopters and planes were delivering aid to the most distant Mentawai islands, where last week’s tsunami destroyed hundreds of homes, schools, churches and mosques.
The tsunami death toll stood at 431, the National Disaster Management Agency said.