Indonesia volcano death toll rises to 25: officials

Indonesia volcano death toll rises to 25: officials

A villager watches Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most volatile volcano, in Kaliadem, Yogyakarta, on Tuesday. AP

The traditional gatekeeper, Mbah or grandfather Marijan, was found dead in his burnt house about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the peak, local officials said.

"At least 25 people were killed, including Mbah Marijan. A reporter and two volunteers were also killed," said Banu Hermawan, spokesman for Sardjito hospital in nearby Yogyakarta.

No eruptions had been recorded since yesterday when Mount Merapi, which means "Mountain of Fire", sent searing gas and molten lava into the sky on at least 10 occasions, a government expert said.

"Although Merapi has not erupted again since yesterday, people should remain in shelters," volcanologist Surono said.

Authorities may have saved many lives when they ordered thousands of people to flee from a 10-kilometre danger zone on Monday, after raising the threat level for the volcano to red, the highest possible.

The order affected about 19,000 people but it was not clear how many had obeyed and moved to temporary shelters.

The 2,914-metre Mount Merapi, 400 kilometres east of Jakarta, is the most active of the 69 volcanoes with histories of eruptions in Indonesia.

It last erupted in June 2006 killing two people, but its deadliest eruption occurred in 1930 when more than 1,300 people were killed. Heat clouds from another eruption in 1994 killed more than 60 people.

The volcano has special significance for the people of Java island as it is one of four places where officials from the royal palaces of Yogyakarta and Solo make annual offerings to placate the spirits of Javanese mythology.

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