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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 May 2006, 04:15 GMT 05:15 UK
Indonesia villagers defy volcano
Thousands living under the volcano have been told to leave

Some villagers are defying the dangers posed by the Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi, saying they must try to tend their livestock and crops.

A full evacuation was set in motion on Saturday after scientists warned of an imminent eruption.

The volcano, in Central Java province, is shooting out black smoke, volcanic ash and lava.

Police have set up roadblocks to curb access but have allowed some villagers to return temporarily.

Mystical spirits

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says Mount Merapi's pyrotechnic displays continue unabated with mini explosions sending clouds of burning ash, small rocks and spurts of lava high into the sky.

Although officials say the evacuation is going smoothly, some farmers have defied the order to leave.

The government has put millions of dollars aside to cover the emergency, but ministers have not made clear whether villagers will be entitled to compensation for lost crops and livestock.

Budi, a 30-year-old farmer who came back to tend his cattle, said: "My feeling is it will not blow at this time."

Asmo, an elderly man who had been evacuated, said: "Of course, I am afraid. But it is my responsibility to get the milk and cut the grass. A responsibility cannot be abandoned."

Our correspondents says Mount Merapi is revered by many locals, who believe mystical sprits live in the volcano's crater.

Many say they are waiting for specific signs - such as clouds in the shape of a sheep's fleece to show them an eruption is imminent.

But scientists are convinced of the danger, having recorded 27 tremors from the 3,000m (9,700ft) volcano on Saturday.

Officials monitoring the volcano raised the threat status to a red alert, the highest level.

Scientists still cannot say when the volcano will erupt nor how powerful any explosion might be.

Merapi - which means "mountain of fire" - is now in a state of "constant lava flow".

A gas cloud from the volcano's last eruption in 1994 killed 60 people.

One of its deadliest eruptions was in 1930, when about 1,300 people were killed.

Indonesia, part of the Asia-Pacific "Ring of Fire", has at least 129 active volcanoes.

Do you live in the area? Have you or do you know anyone who has been affected by the evacuation? Send us your experiences by using the form below:

I was born in a village about 10 km east from Merapi. Now I live in Cilegon, near the volcano of Krakatau in Banten. I have climbed Merapi twice. The villagers around Mount Merapi have a strong believe in whatever the keeper of Merapi Mr. Marijan says. He is the one, who can see the condition of the volcano from the mystical side. If Mr. Marijan does not leave the mountain, the villagers won't leave either. Most of them are not well educated and believe in superstitions. Rochedi Zuwono, Indonesia

I have friends in Indonesia and I know that the evacuation is not good. I've seen migration from homeland to kenya and faced many problem. Human life is much more important than the life stock because life stock is replaceable but human life is not replaceable. On the other hand the soil will become much more fertile after the eruption. This is why volcano eruptions are important. Geele Farah, Kenya

Mt Merapi certainly seems to exhibit clear signs of an imminent eruption. The scale of the potential disaster depends on the location of the local communities. They thrive within these areas because of the fertile soil secured by regular eruptions. However it is the increased density of the population that draws more concern for the potential hazard. It is not surprising that many farmers are reluctant to leave their land given that there is no compensatory package provided by the government. The risk to human lifes is becoming ever greater, and the socioeconomic infrastructure is under serious threat. The power of nature cannot be undermined, that is always the case in areas prone to geophysical hazards.....You've got to learn to live with the hazard, but the disaster can be significantly reduced by appropriate preparedness - something the Indonesians seem to have achieved, at least in part. Chris Brodie, Denny

I was born and lived for 7 years in the District of Magelang, where half of Gunung Merapi is located. I still remember every time I went back from school, I faced Merapi. Every time I heard that Merapi is going to explode, I often heard the terrible news from people, and also heard the myths connected with it. Can't imagine the condition now. I also visited Merapi, but I did not climb, and remember there were a lot of houses. I often wondered what will happen to them.William Tanoto, UK

I visited Merapi in 1994. What concerned me most was that the city of Jogjakarta has a population of over 10 million people. If Merapi was to erupt on a massive scale this could be one of the worlds greatest humanitarian disasters.Tim Butler, UK

I have friends in Indonesia and wish everyone is more willing to leave since the eruption is very dangerous and death is imminent. don't worry about life stock because they are replaceable but your life can't. The soil in the farmland will become much more fertile after the eruption.Sherwin Lo, Marietta, USA

I live 35 km to the east of mount Merapi. Luckily for me, the eruption never affect areas in the east of Merapi but only to the north and northwest. After the eruption, the sky will be very dark and it will rain of ash and dirt for about two hours. When I was a kid, the eruption didn't affect us directly but the whole town was covered by thick-gray-ash and we spent hours to sweep it off our roof and garden. Yesterday I heard that some poor farmers wanted the government to buy their cattle and livestock because it is the only possession they have. It's an old old story, EVERY TIME Merapi erupts, there are ALWAYS dead victims. Usually it's the ones who decided to stay in the Merapi's vicinity.Winarto, Solo, Indonesia

I am a Canadian who used to live in Yogyakarta 20 years ago. I fell in love with the people, the land and climbed Merapi. It was common to leave at dusk in order to watch the sunrise from the peak of Merapi. I stay in touch with my friends there who are nervous - remember this if from the land of Krakatoa and one only needs to think of Pompeii to realise what could happen. Spencer Campbell, Canada

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