Indonesia volcano kills 30 including spirit keeper

Rescuers scoured the slopes of Indonesia`s most volatile volcano for survivors after it was rocked by an eruption which killed at least 30 people.

Last Updated: Oct 27, 2010, 21:40 PM IST

Mount Merapi: Rescuers scoured
the slopes of Indonesia`s most volatile volcano for survivors
on Wednesday after it was rocked by an eruption which killed at least
30 people, including an old man who refused to abandon his
ceremonial post as caretaker of the mountain`s spirits.

Authorities warned the thousands who fled Mount Merapi`s
wrath not to return during Wednesday`s lull in volcanic
activity, but some villagers were desperate to check on crops
and possessions left behind.

In several areas, everything, from the thinnest tree
branch to couches and chairs inside homes, was caked with ash
that looked like powdery snow.

The latest blast Tuesday night eased pressure that had
been building up behind a lava dome perched on the crater. But
experts warned the dome could still collapse, causing an
avalanche of the blistering gas and debris trapped beneath it.

"It`s a little calmer today," said Surono, the chief of
Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation. "No
hot clouds, no rumbling. But a lot of energy is pent up back
there. There`s no telling what`s next."

Mount Merapi, which translates as "Fire Mountain," has
erupted many times over the last 200 years, often with deadly
results. In 1994, 60 people were killed, while in 1930, more
than a dozen villages were incinerated, leaving up to 1,300
dead.

Still, as with other volcanoes in Indonesia, more than
11,000 people call its fertile slopes home.

Even as rescue officials contended with the volcano, one
of 129 under watch in Indonesia, the world`s largest
archipelago, officials hundreds of miles (kilometres) away
were trying to assess the impact of a powerful earthquake off
Sumatra island that triggered a tsunami, leaving several
hundred missing or dead.

PTI