11,000 evacuated in Indonesia as Mount Merapi threatens to erupt

Wednesday, June 7, 2006 The Indonesian government has ordered the evacuation of 11,000 people form the Magelang district as Mount Merapi spews ash, lava and smoke from its dome. The dome continues to rise and scientists fear it may collapse. Smoke and ash are rising at least 2.4 miles into the sky and lava is rising at least 4 miles from the volcano's crater.

"Of course it is dangerous. But we don't know for sure whether the lava dome will collapse," said an Indonesian government volcanologist, Subandriyo.

At least 40 cars and trucks have been ordered to assist in the evacuation and take villagers to nearby schools and government buildings that have been turned into makeshift shelters.

"Since Monday we have evacuated ... more or less 2,000 people. The people that we need to evacuate are around 11,000. The lava has spread out in various directions. The lava domes are weakening," said Edi Purwanto, who is in charge of the evacuation post.

Scientists also say that the recent earthquake on May 27 which had a magnitude of 6.3 may have caused the volcano to become unstable and likely "shook the mountain." At least 5,800 people were killed in the quake.

"I don't think that's unreasonable. The volcano is an unstable pile of rock. It's fragile. I would be surprised if it [the quake] didn't literally shake the mountain," said an Arizona State University volcanologist who studies the volcano, Stanley Williams.

The volcano sits 280 miles to the east of Indonesia's capital of Jakarta.