Villagers return to Java volcano

Posted by: Magpie

Villagers return to Java volcano - 19 May 06 08:08

Locals have started to return to their homes on the slopes of the Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi, despite warnings that a huge eruption could happen soon.
The volcano is still spewing large heat clouds, but appeared calmer on Thursday than on previous days.

Some scientists predict that this kind of activity could continue for several more weeks.

But experts have warned villagers to stay away from the slopes of the volcano until the danger has passed.

Back to the fields

On Saturday, vulcanologists put the area on the highest level of alert, and people living closest to the crater, or next to rivers that could provide channels for hot lava, were moved to emergency shelters.

More than 20,000 people still remain in the refugee camps, but others are beginning to go back to the slopes of Mount Merapi.

"Around 1,600 people decided to return here," Mukidad, the head of Kalibening village, told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

How and why volcanoes erupt
One villager told reporters she did not think the volcano would get any worse, and that she would rather be home than in a refugee camp.

"It felt hot there. I felt bored. I couldn't stand it," she said.

Others said they were used to ash blowing out of the volcano, as it happened every year, and had to continue tending their crops and livestock.

The mountain is also revered by many locals, who believe mystical sprits live in the volcano's crater. Many say they are waiting for specific signs - such as clouds in the shape of a sheep's fleece - to show them an eruption is imminent.

But experts warn that the area is still very dangerous.

Triyani, an official at the Centre for Volcanological Research and Technology Development in the nearby city of Yogyakarta, said that a major lava dome had yet to collapse.

If and when it does, scientists fear that a major eruption could occur.