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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 13:51 GMT
Indonesian volcano 'could erupt soon'
1998 eruption of Mount Merapi
A 1998 eruption forced thousands to flee their homes

Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians living near one of the country's most dangerous volcanoes were told on Thursday to prepare for possible evacuation.


There could be a large eruption in the next few days

Volcanic expert
Officials said the 3,000m-high Mount Merapi, on the main island of Java, had been spewing hot rock and ash as far as 2km (1.5 miles) from the crater rim this week.

"There could be a large eruption in the next few days," the volcanological agency director Djumarma Wirakusumah said.

1994 eruption of Mount Merapi
In 1994, a sudden eruption killed 60 people
"Government officials have told people [living around the volcano] to get ready."

The lofty Mount Merapi lies in one of the world's most densely populated areas.

Thousands of farmers have made a home on the rich soil at the base and slopes of the mountain while just 40km away is Yogyakarta city, which has a population of about one million.

There are 120 million people living on the island of Java.

Ring of fire

Mount Merapi is considered to be one of the most active of Indonesia's 500 volcanoes.


It has erupted several times over the last 20 years. In July 1998, thousands living near the volcano were forced to flee their homes as it spewed ash and toxic gas.

In 1994, a sudden eruption killed 60 people.

Its most destructive eruption in living memory was in 1930, when 1,300 people were killed.

An eruption in 1006 covered the central part of the island with ash and effectively destroyed the existing Hindu kingdom.

Indonesia lies near the "Ring of Fire" - the circle around the Pacific Ocean on which most of the world's active volcanoes above sea level lie.

One of the most famous eruptions in the country was the 1883 Krakatau eruption, which was heard as far away as Australia and killed more than 36,000 people.

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See also:

31 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Volcano eruption kills geologists
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
01 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Why volcanoes explode
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