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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Java volcano evacuation ordered
Mount Merapi. Photo: 10 May 2006
Mount Merapi has been spewing lava and poisonous smoke
Indonesia's vice president has ordered the evacuation of some 17,000 people living near a volcano, which has been threatening to erupt for weeks.

Jusuf Kalla's order came as he toured the slopes of Mount Merapi on the island of Java.

The volcano has recently been spewing more lava and smoke, and scientists say that an eruption is imminent.

But the threat level has not been raised to the highest alert - a move which would trigger a mass evacuation.

"I ask that immediate safety steps are taken, beginning by taking at least 50% of the total population from the danger zone," Mr Kalla was quoted as saying by Indonesia's state-run Antara news agency.

Mr Kalla - who also heads the country's emergency situations board - said an eruption was only a matter of time.

He was speaking during a visit to Magelang and Sleman - the two districts around the slopes of the rumbling volcano in central Java.

Mr Kalla flew over the mountain, and later met some of the people already evacuated from their homes.

Mount Merapi, overlooking the ancient city of Jogjakarta, is on Orange Code - the second highest alert level.

At least 60 people were killed in Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 1994.

It is one of the most active of at least 129 volcanoes in Indonesia.

The country is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire" - a series of volcanoes and fault lines stretching from the western hemisphere through Japan and South East Asia.

One of Mount Merapi's deadliest eruptions was in 1930, killing about 1,300 people.

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