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Indonesian Volcano Erupts Again as Evacuations Surge

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi erupted for the third time in a week, spewing hot ash and forcing thousands more people to flee to evacuation shelters in central Java, while the death toll from the Mentawai Islands tsunami was revised downward.

More eruptions are expected, R. Sukhyar, head of the energy ministry’s geology agency, said today. Rescuers set up additional shelters for people living near the edge of Merapi’s 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) danger zone as the number of evacuees surged by a third to 69,000, said Nelis Zuliasri, a spokeswoman at the nation’s disaster management agency.

“We’re concerned about cold lava flow considering that rainfall is very intense at this time,” Zuliasri said by telephone today. “We’ve been prohibiting villagers from going back to their homes.” The death toll from the eruptions since Oct. 26 is 38, she said.

Indonesia is battling to recover from two disasters that struck the Southeast Asian nation within a day of each other. Rescuers are struggling to cope with bad weather as the search for survivors of a tsunami that hit Sumatra’s Mentawai Islands on Oct. 25 continues.

The national disaster management agency revised down the death toll from the tsunami to 431 from 450 and 88 remain missing, the national disaster management agency said in a statement on its website today. The new figure was derived after an initial report from South Sipora district was revised, the statement said.

“We are now focusing to rescue the survivors who are still at the hills,” Ade Edward, operational head at the West Sumatra Regional Disaster Management, said by telephone from the provincial capital, Padang. “The weather makes it difficult for us to go on a rescue search, our team had an accident yesterday, their boat was swept away by high waves, we are lucky that all survived”.

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