Early on Saturday morning, May 13, 2006, the official warning level of Central Java's Mount Merapi was raised to its highest level, signaling that a major eruption was now considered imminent. Provincial authorities immediately put into operation contingency evacuation plans to move from harm's way an estimated 70,000 -100,000 local residents living in the shadow of the volcano.
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations - 19 April 2006
[Click to enlarge]
The decision to go to the highest alert status was made in the face of increases in lava flows and hot gas emissions from the 9.737 foot-high Mountain. Considered most at risk by experts are areas surrounding several rivers emanating from the mountain and flowing to the south-southeast in an 8 kilometer radius from the volcano. Meanwhile areas to west and southwest are being evacuated within a radius of 8-10 kilometers from the mountain's peak.
Located 25 kilometers north of the Central Javanese city of Yogyakarta, Merapi is more than 530 kilometers from Bali's capital of Denpasar.
Officials are now increasing concerned that the massive amounts of lava being accumulated in the volcanoes cone could form a cork-like dome, preparing the way for a cataclysmic explosion of the mountain. These explosions, in the form of pyroclastic flows can create fast-moving avalanches of molten ash, pumice rock, and poisonous gas that kill and incinerate all in their paths.
Historical records show that a 1994 eruption cost the lives of at least 66 people and that an earlier eruption in 1930 killed 1,370 people. Highly active, the Mountain has erupted a total of 68 times since 1548. A massive explosion in 1006 covered all of central Java with ash and is credited with the demise of the Hindu Kingdom of Mataram.
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