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Blistering gas from Indonesia’s most volatile volcano spewed farther than expected Friday, incinerating houses at the edge of the danger zone, triggering chaotic evacuations and pushing the death toll above 100. Soldiers joined overnight rescue operations in Bronggang, nine miles from the crater of Mount Merapi, pulling at least 58 corpses from smoldering homes and streets blanketed by ash up to one foot deep. Volcanic ash from its frequent eruptions makes the soil fertile enough to support a large population, but it poses a constant threat to the tens of thousands of people who live in its shadow.
The Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation reported that two pyroclastic flows moved down the volcano on October 30. A pyroclastic flow is an avalanche of extremely hot gas, ash, and rock that tears down the side of a volcano at high speeds. The ASTER sensor imaged one of those flows. Merapi shows no signs of slowing its eruption. After several days of eruptive episodes, the volcano began a more intense eruption on November 3 that was ongoing on November 4. The eruption is five times more intense than the eruption on October 26 and has lasted more than 24 hours, making it the most violent eruption at the volcano since the 1870s, said local geologists.
Dozens of injured people – with clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin by the 1,400 degree Fahrenheit (750 degree Celsius) gas clouds – were carried away on stretchers. Authorities extended Mount Merapi’s danger zone by three miles to 12 miles from the crater after the new eruption, said Subandrio, a state volcanologist.
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