June 16, 2006

Two trapped by Indonesian volcano debris found dead

By Supriyatin

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two men trapped in a
bunker by debris from Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano have
died, disaster management officials said on Friday.

The bunker where the two men had taken shelter was
inadequate, vulcanologist Triyani told Reuters from the ancient
royal center of Yogyakarta, which is 440 km (270 miles) east of
Jakarta and is the nearest city to Merapi.

"The first person was in a singed condition because of hot
steam," regency disaster management chief Widisutikno told
Elshinta news radio. The second body was intact when recovered
from the bunker early on Friday morning.

The bunker, which had been completely buried by volcanic
material, was full of ash which also covered the surrounding

At one point during the final recovery effort on Friday
morning, a fresh gas cloud from the volcano sent rescue teams
scurrying away from the site. A mechanical shovel was used to
help clear away volcanic material which was still hot enough to
throw off steam.

Mount Merapi has been spilling molten lava and spewing
clouds of hot gas and ash sporadically for weeks, but had one
of its heaviest bursts yet on Wednesday.

Disaster official Susilo Purwanto told Reuters by telephone
the men were trapped when they sought shelter that day, as
searing clouds swept through villages 6-7 km from Merapi's top,
damaging buildings and covering neighborhoods with grey ash.

Rescuers had been trying to reach the men since Thursday,
Purwanto said, adding that one of the dead was a rescue
volunteer while the other was a villager. They were the first
known direct casualties since the volcano began a period of
intense activity in April.

Merapi, in Indonesia's central Java heartland, is
considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Pacific
"Ring of Fire." It has threatened a major eruption for weeks,
forcing thousands of people living nearby to shuttle back and
forth between their homes and evacuation shelters.

The volcano has become more active since an earthquake last
month struck Yogyakarta and nearby areas, killing more than
5,700 people.

Vulcanologists said the gas clouds from the mountain were
not as extensive on Friday as on Wednesday, when they stretched
7 km.

Even so, Dali Ahmad of the vulcanology center in Bandung
told Reuters: "For now with hot gas clouds that glide around
five kilometers, sure, it's dangerous enough."

More than 60 people were killed when Merapi erupted in
1994, while 1,300 died in a 1930 eruption.

(Additional reporting by Diyan Jari in Jakarta)