Indonesia volcano burns whole villages; 118 dead | world | Hindustan Times
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Indonesia volcano burns whole villages; 118 dead

The tiny hospital at the foot of Indonesia's most volatile volcano is struggling to cope with victims brought in after the mountain's most powerful eruption in a century.

world Updated: Nov 06, 2010 13:43 IST

The tiny hospital at the foot of Indonesia's most volatile volcano is struggling to cope with victims brought in after the mountain's most powerful eruption in a century.

Some have clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin.

With few beds and the only burn unit in town, doctors have been forced to turn people away.

A surge of searing gas raced down the sides of Mount Merapi at highway speeds on Friday, setting houses and trees ablaze and blackening the bodies of those caught in its path.

The number of people killed by Merapi since October 26 soared to 118 after the nightmarish eruption and sent tens of thousands more into already crowded emergency shelters in the shadow of the volcano.

It continued to rumble and groan on Saturday, spitting gray clouds of ash and gas high into the air.

"It's scary. ... The eruption just keeps going on," said Wajiman, who was sitting in a shelter near a girl reading a newspaper headlined "Merapi isn't finished yet."

The worst hit village of Bronggang lay 15 kilometers from the fiery crater, just on the perimeter of the government-delineated 'danger zone.' Crumpled roofs, charred carcasses of cattle and broken chairs — all layered in white ash and soot — dotted the smoldering landscape.

The zone has since been expanded to a ring 20 kilometers from the peak, bringing it to the edge of the ancient royal capital of Yogyakarta, which has been put on its highest alert. Poor visibility from ash showers snarled traffic and forced closed the city's airport for a second day .

The biggest threat is the Code River, which flows from the 3,000-meter mountain into the heart of the city of 400,000 and could act as conduit for deadly volcanic mudflows that can race at speeds of 100 kph.

Already, it is clogged with cold lava, mud, rocks and other debris.

Sri Sucirathasri said her family had stayed in their Bronggang home on Thursday night because they hadn't been told to leave.

They awoke in the dark as the mountain let out thunderous claps and tried desperately to outrun the flows on a motorbike. Her mother, father and 12-year-old sister, Prisca, left first, but with gray ash blocking out any light, they mistakenly drove into — rather than away from — the volcano's dangerous discharge.