Flights resume to Indonesia as volcano spews ash

Flights resume to Indonesia as volcano spews ash

The official death toll from Mount Merapi has been raised to 194 to include deaths from respiratory problems, heart attacks and other illnesses related to the eruptions that started more than two weeks ago.

The notoriously unpredictable volcano in the heart of Java island roared back to life two weeks ago, spewing searing gases and ash almost daily. More than 350,000 people have been evacuated to cramped emergency shelters.

President Barack Obama, now in South Korea for the Group of 20 summit, sliced several hours off his brief visit to Indonesia and several international flights to Jakarta were cancelled yesterday over concerns about volcanic ash being carried by westerly winds.

Today, ash spreading over western Java was falling just short of the capital, said Gordon Jackson, a meteorologist with the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Darwin, Australia. "Right now, all flights are operating normally," said Frans Yosef, the manager at Jakarta's main international airport. Jakarta is about 270 miles from Merapi.

Even so, the US State Department urged travellers to stay clear of Mount Merapi, which has erupted many times in the last century,killing more than 1,400.

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