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Rescue ops on after Indonesia volcano eruption

Rescue teams resumed their search for more bodies and survivors today, a day after Indonesia's most dangerous volcano erupted, killing at least 17 people and injuring dozens of others, officials and media reports said.

world Updated: Oct 27, 2010 11:03 IST

Rescue teams resumed their search for more bodies and survivors on Wednesday, a day after Indonesia's most dangerous volcano erupted, killing at least 17 people and injuring dozens of others, officials and media reports said.

The search was focused on two villages - Kinahrejo and Turgo - located close to the Mount Merapi volcano in the crowded Central Java province, where at least 15 burnt bodies had been found, a rescue official said.

"The search is focused on these two villages south of Merapi's foot for possible survivors or bodies. These two hamlets are the most severely hit by hot ash from the volcano," the state-run Antara news agency quoted the rescue team commander Aloysius Pramono as saying.

Television footage showed rescue workers using a chainsaw to cut away fallen trees blocking the evacuation routes.

Mount Merapi volcano erupted Wednesday, spewing clouds of hot ash up to 1.5 km into the sky and sending hot debris south and south-west down its slope. Hundreds of homes and other property were heavily damaged.

Thousands of residents living in the danger zones panicked and ran out of their homes into vehicles waiting to carry them to the evacuation centres. Many initially refused to flee when experts Monday upgraded the volcano's alert to red and ordered them to immediately abandon their homes.

Television footage showed residents, most wearing masks, being taken away in trucks with windscreens covered by dust.

Metro TV reported that 15 badly burned bodies were found near the house of Mbah Marijan, the man known as the keeper of the mountain, who had refused to leave his home.

Officials at Sardjito and Panti Nugroho hospitals in the city of Yogyakarta, near the volcano, confirmed that 12 bodies had been brought in, while 40 injured people were treated.

The Jakarta-based Vivanews.com news website confirmed that one of its reporters was among the dead.

A three-month-old baby was dead on the way to Muntilan Hospital in Magelang district, while at least 60 people were treated for respiratory problems from the volcano's dust, said an official who feared that the death toll could continue to rise.

Officials estimated up to 40,000 people live in the endangered areas.

The 2,968-metre volcano, about 500 km south-east of Jakarta, last erupted in 2006, killing two people.

Its most deadly eruption on record occurred in 1930, when 1,370 people were killed. At least 66 people were killed in a 1994 eruption.

Indonesia has the highest density of volcanoes in the world with about 500 in the "Belt of Fire" in the 5,000-km-long archipelago nation. Nearly 130 are active and 68 are listed as dangerous.