Sleman - One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes spewed out clouds of ash and jets of searing gas on Wednesday in an eruption that has killed at least 25 people and injured 14.
Mount Merapi, on the outskirts of the city of Yogyakarta on Java island, first erupted on Tuesday, a day after a tsunami pounded remote islands in western Indonesia, killing at least 113 people.
Authorities have been trying to evacuate more than 11 000 villagers living on the slopes of the volcano, where many houses have been destroyed, the ruins lying covered in white ash.
Endita Sri Andrianti, a spokeswoman for Yogyakarta's Sardjito hospital, said 25 people had been killed by deadly bursts of hot air released by the volcano late on Tuesday.
“We are still collecting details to identify them. Most of them were burned to death,” she told Reuters by phone, adding that 14 villagers had suffered burn injuries.
She was unable to confirm local media reports that among the dead was the elderly spiritual guardian of the mountain, Mbah Maridjan, believed by many Javanese to possess magic powers.
Many of victims had been found in or around his house in the village of Kinahredjo, close to the volcano's crater, local media reported. A Reuters cameraman at Kinahredjo said he saw burn victims being brought down from the mountain in body bags. Houses in the village had been destroyed.
“Several houses and cattle have been burned by the hot cloud from the mountain,” he said. “All the houses are blanketed in ash, completely white. The leaves have been burned off the trees.”
Clouds of smoke and ash obscured the peak of the mountain, making it impossible to see if lava had begun flowing.
The country' top vulcanologist, Surono, said Merapi was now “quite calm”.
“There are no signs of another imminent eruption but I cannot guarantee anything and we don't know if this is just a temporary rest,” Surono said.
“I have advised local officials to continue the evacuations. It's still on the highest alert level.”
Indonesian news portal Okezone quoted the manager of Yogyakarta's Adisucipto International Airport as saying that flights had not been disrupted by the ash cloud.
In a 1994 eruption after the volcano's lava dome collapsed, 70 people were killed. The volcano killed 1 300 people in 1930.
Last month, another Indonesian volcano, Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island to the west, erupted after lying dormant for 400 years, forcing a mass evacuation. - Reuters