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Indonesian volcano erupts again, prompting returnees to flee

Residents who had returned home to check on livestock raced away as Mount Merapi again erupted near Central Java, Indonesia yesterday. No casualties were immediately reported. Residents who had returned home to check on livestock raced away as Mount Merapi again erupted near Central Java, Indonesia yesterday. No casualties were immediately reported. (Associated Press)
Associated Press / November 1, 2010

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MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — Thousands of evacuees who risked a trip home near a deadly Indonesian volcano fled in panic as the mountain spewed more searing ash clouds yesterday, while rescuers finally resumed aid to tsunami victims in the country’s other unfolding disaster.

The number of people killed in the twin catastrophes climbed to almost 500 yesterday, as dozens more bodies were found in the tsunami-ravaged Mentawai islands.

Indonesia, a vast island nation of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and eruptions because it straddles a series of fault lines and volcanoes known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Warning sirens blared and people sprinted down the slopes of Mount Merapi or sped off in cars and trucks, while others who had returned amid a brief lull to check on their livestock jumped into rivers hoping to protect themselves when the volcano erupted, local disaster officials said.

No new casualties were immediately reported in the latest blast, which sent massive clouds of ash down the less-populated southern and eastern slopes. The volcano has killed at least 38 people since it began erupting Tuesday.

Authorities have been frustrated that many of the 53,000 people evacuated since the eruptions began keep going back during the daylight hours, ignoring warnings of the danger.

More than 2,000 troops had to be called in Saturday to force men, women, and children to leave.

Residents of the once-fertile slopes of Merapi say they’re just trying to salvage something of their lives.

The 46-minute eruption yesterday shot dust about a mile into the air and a cloud of hot ash a half-mile down Merapi’s eastern and southern slopes, said the head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.

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