April 24, 2006

Indonesians stay on rumbling volcano’s slopes

BOYOLALI, Indonesia (Reuters) - Thousands of villagers are
ignoring government warnings of an approaching eruption and
staying put in their homes on the slopes of Indonesia's
rumbling Mount Merapi, officials said on Monday.

The volcano, which claimed more than 60 lives 1994 and
1,300 in a 1930 eruption, has been spewing thick smoke for
nearly a week. Vulcanologists say it may erupt at the end of
the month, but many villagers fear losing property and
livestock if they go.

Some others, particularly older people, say they would
prefer to die on their own land.

"Honestly, to mobilize people is difficult because they are
going on with their daily lives," Susilo Purwanto, a government
official in charge of disaster victims' welfare, told Reuters.

"Some were still even milking their cows," he said.

Indonesia has successfully moved more than 600 people away
from the restive volcano but that is still way below the total
living on the slopes of Java's Mount Merapi, which overlooks
the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta.

Officials put the total number of residents on the mountain
at around 14,000.

Most of those who have been moved are women, children and
the elderly, but hundreds are still living near the slopes of
the volcano, which has been placed on "Orange Code" -- the
second highest alert level -- due to an increase in tremors.

Some of the evacuated residents return to their home
villages during the day to feed their livestock, said Riyoto
Suwarjo, a social service official from the central government