Indonesian volcano death toll jumps to 191

Mount Merapi, which means "Mountain of Fire", has been spewing ash and heat clouds since late October, incinerating entire settlements and forcing 340,000 people to flee to makeshift camps.

"The death toll from Merapi has reached 191," a disaster management official, who refused to give his name, told AFP.

He said the sharp increase in the death toll from 151 was probably due to rescuers recovering more bodies in the central Java area where the volcano is located.

Fast-flowing torrents of boiling hot gas and rock incinerated villages on Friday, killing people as they slept and leaving rescuers to pull bodies from ruined buildings.

Government volcanologist Surono said Merapi had twice shot ash high into the air today and the area was still unsafe.

"The intensity of the eruption has decreased but the volcano's activity is still high and it still emits heat clouds," Surono told AFP.

"The volcano is still on alert status and it's not conducive for people to go home yet."
Surono said data showed Merapi had belched more heat clouds at 5:30 am today (2230 GMT Tuesday) which could reach up to four kilometres from the volcano's crater.
The government announced a 20-kms "danger zone" from the top of the volcano on Friday, saying residents within the area should be evacuated.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific and Australia's Qantas cancelled flights because of the volcanic ash.

The ash caused major disruptions to flights in and out of Indonesia at the weekend and forced US President Barack Obama to cut short his trip to the sprawling archipelago today.
Cathay said it had cancelled flights to and from Jakarta today and tomorrow, while Qantas cancelled a Sydney-Jakarta service today.

"Cathay Pacific will monitor and assess the situation and the possibility of operating flights," the airline said on its website today.

Jetstar, the low-cost offshoot of Qantas, has also changed its flight schedule for services to the Indonesian island of Bali, cancelling flights that arrive at or depart from the popular holiday destination at night.

"Safety is Jetstar's number one priority and the airline has put a range of measures in place to ensure safe operations, including the decision to operate services arriving to/departing from Bali during daylight hours only," it said.

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