|After more than a week of eruptions, Friday’s gas cloud is said to be the largest so far [AFP]|
At least 48 people have been killed in the past 24 hours after clouds of blistering gas erupted from Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano on the island of Java.
Another 66 people were injured when the volcano erupted sending an ash cloud over a mountainside village on Friday.
The gas eruptions were said by the country’s volcanologists to be the largest so far and have caused the most casualties.
Villages on fire
Blasts from the volcano have killed at least 92 people in total since first erupting on October 26.
Step Vaessen, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jakarta, the capital, said: “The eruption is still underway. It has not stopped erupting for the last 40 hours. Last night there was a huge eruption.
“Villages were on fire, houses burned. Lots of people had to flee. Many wounded and many dead, but there are still people living on the slopes of Merapi.
“Many people have been evacuated … But still people have to go back and forth to their villages, because their animals are there.
“So people are pleading to the government to help them so that not just the people are evacuated but the animals as well so that they don’t have to go back to their villages all the time.”
‘Danger zone’ extended
More than 75,000 people have been moved from the danger zone around the volcano.
That area was widened from 10 to 15km from the peak on Thursday after an eruption gave concern for a heightened threat. It has now been extended to 20km.
Before this year Merapi last erupted in 2006, when it sent an avalanche of pyroclastic ash – hot gases and rock fragments – racing down the mountain and killing two people.
A similar eruption in 1994 killed 60 people, while 1,300 people died in an eruption in 1930.
There are more than 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which are spread across 17,500 islands.
The country is prone to eruptions and earthquakes due to its location within the so-called Ring of Fire – a series of fault lines stretching from the western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.