Thousands of villagers returned to
ash-covered homes along the slopes of Indonesia's most volatile
volcano Monday, after the government said some areas well away from
the fiery crater appeared out of danger from another eruption.
The notoriously unpredictable volcano in the heart of Java island
roared back to life on Oct. 26, killing more than 259 people in a
series of eruptions, according to the National Disaster Management
Agency. Merapi was still rumbling and spewing searing ash and debris
Monday, said state volcanologist Surono, but activity has dropped
sharply in recent days.
After spending nearly three weeks in crowded emergency camps, the
villagers headed up Mount Merapi loaded down with mats, blankets and
clothes to find almost everything they had was gone, said Lilik
Sujati, the chief of Jati, a village on Mount Merapi.
"Their houses are covered in thick ash; their crops can't be
harvested," he said. "We need to find some way to help them. Many
don't have anything to eat."
The government has responded to the slow down in activity by
reducing the "danger-zone" - which had been at 12 miles (20
kilometers) for more than a week - to six miles (10 kilometers) from
the crater on the northern and western flanks.
That has allowed some of the more than 390,000 evacuees to return
Merapi is the most active in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235
million people that is prone to seismic activity because it sits
along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped string of
faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.