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Emergency imposed in Indonesian cities as Java volcano threatens to erupt

Publication Date : 16-02-2014


Volcanologists said Mount Kelud's volcanic eruptions are showing signs of weakening but that the danger is not over yet, as it continued to shoot plumes of gas and ash up to 3km into the air on Saturday.

The death toll rose to four on Saturday, according to media reports. The bodies were found in Ngantang sub-district of Malang regency, some 7km away from the volcano's crater, where the depth of ash fall reached 20cm.

Three died of ash inhalation and one was hit by a collapsing wall, officials say.

While the local authorities in Yogyakarta and Malang have imposed emergency status in their cities, the transport authorities have reopened four airports, including those in Semarang and Surabaya, out of seven ordered shut last Friday.

The late night eruption last Thursday sent hot ash and rocks up 17km into the atmosphere.

The massive eruption wreaked havoc across Java, forcing evacuations of those living within a 10km radius and almost crippling the aviation network.

Changi Airport Group, the manager and operator of Changi Airport, said 37 inbound and outbound flights from five Java cities were cancelled as at 6pm on Saturday.

"Mount Kelud's volcanic activity is showing a decline, with medium-intensity tremors recorded," said Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman with the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

But he said the status of the 1,731m volcano remained at the danger level, urging the evacuation of an estimated 200,000 residents. Some 57,000 people are in shelters.

BNPB, backed by 2,500 soldiers and policemen, is now focusing on recovery efforts, especially the cleanup of roads, collapsed houses and airports affected by the thick ash.

In Yogyakarta's Adisucipto airport, some 1,300 volunteers are helping to shovel off and wash away ash from the apron and runway area, which measured as thick as 5cm.

Handy Heryudhityawan, a spokesman for airport operator Angkasapura 1 - which manages the Yogyakarta airport - said 254 flights to the airport have been cancelled, affecting 30,000 passengers.

The airports in Yogyakarta, Solo and Bandung remained shut Saturday. Their status will be re-evaluated on Monday.

Elsewhere, residents living around other volcanoes, such as the nearby Mount Merapi, are panicking. Some have fled their homes.

Earlier this month, Mount Sinabung in north Sumatra unleashed an eruption that left 17 people dead.


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