Mt Merapi blowing hot and cold ...

MT MERAPI - Hot clouds from Indonesia's Mt Merapi dissipated yesterday, a day after spreading far enough to blanket villages with ash and prompting authorities to put the volcano back on top alert again.

Merapi has threatened a major eruption for weeks, forcing thousands of people living nearby to shuttle back and forth between their homes and evacuation shelters.

This week, the state volcano centre has put Merapi on top alert, lowered the rating, then raised it and has now lowered it again, much to the frustration of locals.

The centre said yesterday that Merapi was calming down again, with hot clouds only stretching 4km from the peak.

On Wednesday, searing clouds swept through the closest villages, which are located 6km to 7km from Merapi's top, leaving a trail of damaged buildings covered with grey ash.

Volcanologists visited the affected villages early to assess the remaining volcanic substances and rescuers tried to clear material covering a bunker in which two people were still trapped.

Officials said there had been no reports of deaths connected with the hot ash shower on Wednesday, but warned of possible deaths in the future. More than 60 people were killed when Merapi last erupted in 1994, while 1300 died in a 1930 eruption.


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