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Indonesia's Mount Merapi has erupted today, sending the largest clouds of hot gas (nuees ardentes) and ash down its slopes yet and sparking panic among residents.
Television footage showed clouds spewing from the volcano's crater against a clear blue sky just after 02:00 GMT (9:00 am local time).
People are now rushing to evacuation points lower down the slopes.

The Volcanology office in Yogyakarta, 30 kilometres south of Merapi, said the clouds reached almost five kilometres down the south-eastern slope but did not reach any inhabited areas.
The village nearest the peak to the southeast, Kinahrejo, lies about 6.5 kilometres down the slope.

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The Terra satellite captured this image of Mount Merapi on June 6, 2006.
In the false-colour image, red indicates vegetation, and the brighter the red, the more robust the plant life. Clouds appear as bright, opaque white, and the volcanic plume appears as a dingy grey cloud blowing toward the southwest.

merapi_ast_2006157_lrg
Credit NASA

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A red alert was still maintained yesterday at Mount Merapi, as activity at the volcano continued to intensify on its eighth day since an earthquake rocked the region.

According Subandriyo, head of the Merapi section at the Volcanology office in Yogyakarta, in the first six hours of Sunday the volcano spewed 118 lava trails and six heat clouds.

On Saturday, Merapi produced nearly 500 red-hot lava flows, plumes of smoke stretching 800 meters into the sky and more than 100 heat clouds, some of them drifting four kilometres down the peak.

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After a powerful earthquake flattened homes and buildings on the central Indonesian island of Java on Saturday, residents could be forgiven for wondering if there's a worrisome geological link between the magnitude 6.2 quake that hit near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, the rumbling of nearby volcano Mount Merapi and the devastating 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami.

If so, they'd be correct, says Priyadi Kartono, of Indonesia's National Co-ordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping.

"There is certainly a connection between the December 26 quake that triggered giant waves that swept much of Aceh and the one that jolted Yogyakarta on Saturday" - Priyadi Kartono.

The recent earthquake and activity on Mount Merapi raises concerns that a so-called Toba"super-volcano" on nearby Sumatra might erupt.

Source

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Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano showed increased activity on Wednesday, spewing more searing heat clouds and lava down its south-western slopes.

The volcano emitted 11 new clouds of gas and ash and 76 lava trails in the first six hours of Wednesday, the vulcanology office in Yogyakarta, 30 kilometres away, said in a daily report.
The report said heat clouds travelled as far as four kilometres down to Kali Krasak river southwest of Merapi.
The volcano's alert level remains on its highest status.
Twenty-nine 29 lava flows and five heat clouds were emitted in the first six hours of Tuesday.
Scientists have warned that although the magma flow which forms a dome at the peak appears to be weakening, the structure may collapse and spew out millions of cubic metres of volcanic rock and lava.

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Fresh hot clouds were reported to be streaming 3.5 km down the slopes of Mt Merapi at about 4:25 pm local time from the crater of volcano.

"Moving into the direction of Krasak River in Magelang district, Central Java, today's hot clouds are 500 meters shorter than Thursday's" - Official at the Mount Merapi Monitoring Post, Panut.

On Sunday at about 00:00 am up to 7:15 am, the hot clouds rolled down from its crater 12 times, while molten lava fallouts were recorded to have happened 22 times.
The Central Java Governor Mardiyanto said on Sunday morning if Mt Merapi showed declining volcanic activities, it did not mean yet that the refugees from the mountainous areas could return to their villages.

"A threat from Mt Merapi may come at anytime, but I stick to the existing standard operational procedures. They should not return to their hometowns yet even if the volcano's activity declined. We have to follow the recommendation of the volcanic section of the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT). We believe that any decision they have made has already been carefully thought of."

He also said he had received a report from the Yogyakarta volcanic section of BPPT saying that the volcano's activities had dropped drastically.
However, the volcanological authorities are still placing Mt Merapi in an alert status.

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-- Edited by Blobrana at 14:36, 2006-05-24

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Space Imaging’s IKONOS satellite acquired this image of Merapi Volcano on May 11, 2006. In this image, what looks like a faint plume extends from the volcano’s summit toward the clouds overhead.

merapiiko2006131b
Image credit: GeoEye

Download GoogleEarth File (merapi.kmz)

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Mount Merapi has erupted violently, sending searing gas clouds and burning rocks down its slopes.

A sharp increase in activity on Monday saw near hourly surges of clouds containing volcanic gas, rock fragments and other debris that tumbled as far as four kilometres down the mountain's western slopes, twice as far as a day earlier.

On Saturday, authorities declared the highest danger alert, triggering mandatory evacuations for some 4,500 residents. However, about 200 villagers living within the danger zone have refused to leave.

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