Indonesia tense over volcano threat

Government tells thousands who left the slopes of Mount Kelud to stay away.

    Volcanologists say the threat from
    Mount Kelud is real[AFP]

    However, some of the tens of thousands of villagers who have been forced off the volcano's slopes say they are losing money while they are kept off their land.

     

    Tremors rocked Mount Kelud, a 1,731-metre peak about 90kms from Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, for nearly an hour on Friday, Surano, the top volcanologist at the monitoring station, Kristanto, said.

     

    But there has been no major activity since Sunday making it all the more difficult to convince evacuees to remain in makeshift refugee shelters near its base.

     

    High alert

     

    "We are still in a situation of high alert," he said, noting that Mount Kelud has a history of only large eruptions, never small.

     

    "Once it goes off, it will be big. This is why we keep reminding people they have to stay clear of the crater."

     

    Authorities have ordered 116,000 people living along the volcano's fertile slopes to leave their homes, but more than 12,000 refused, saying they needed to tend to their crops and animals and protect against possible looting.

     

    Meanwhile, many of those forced to evacuate were losing patience and money.

     

    Suyatno, who earns $1 a day picking cloves and coffee beans for a private plantation company, said he was eager to return to his village of Candi Sewu, 5kms from Mount Kelud's peak.

     

    The last eruption of Mount Kelud in 1990 killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds. In 1919, a powerful explosion that could be heard hundreds of kilometres away destroyed dozens of villages and killed at least 5,160 people

     

    Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The archipelago nation is home to 129 active volcanoes, including 21 on Java alone.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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