Hundreds rescued as Indonesia’s Merapi spews ash

Hundreds of Indonesians were forced to evacuate following an increased volcanic activity from Mount Merapi.

This after Yogyakarta’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center head Hanik Humaida said on Friday that Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano could erupt anytime and possibly send hot gas clouds down its slopes up to five kilometers.

About 500 Indonesians from four villages—mostly the elderly, children, and pregnant women—were rescued and taken to emergency shelters in Java’s Magelang district in central Java province, according to Edy Susanto, a local disaster mitigation official.

Susanto said that emergency measures to evacuate people living within 6km (3.7 miles) of the crater’s mouth were being readied as local administrations in Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces closely monitor the situation.

Indonesia’s geological agency on Thursday raised Mount Merapi’s alert level to the second-highest level following increased volcanic activity.

The 2,968-meter mountain was about 30 kilometers (km) or 18 miles from the Yogyakarta city center.

Meanwhile, about 250,000 people live within a 10-km or 6-mile radius of the volcano.

In June, Mount Merapi spewed ash and hot gas in a column as high as 6 km (3.7 miles) into the sky but no casualties were reported.

Its last major eruption was in 2010 claiming the lives of 347 people and caused the evacuation of 20,000 villagers.

Indonesia—a country housing more than 270 million people—sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

Photo from Flickr