Fear that 'worst is yet to come' from Indonesian volcano

Click to follow

Towering clouds of hot ash gushed from the mouth of Indonesia's deadly volcano today, hours after its most explosive eruption in a week sent screaming women and children fleeing mountainside villages and emergency shelters.

Scientists fear the worst might be yet to come.

"It looks like we may be entering an even worse stage," said Surono, a state volcanologist. "We have no idea what's happening now."

The volcano, one of the world's most active, has erupted many times in the last century, often with deadly results.

Forty people have died since it burst back to life just over a week ago - almost all of them from the first blast on October 26 blast, and subsequent chaotic evacuations.

More than 70,000 people are packed in crowded government camps well away from the base and may have to stay for weeks, or possibly months.

As rocks and ash rained from the sky, soldiers helped load thousands of frightened villagers into trucks today, including those seeking shelter in three crowded emergency shelters near the foot of the 9,700-ft mountain.

There have been more than a dozen strong eruptions at Merapi in the last week and thousands of volcanic tremors and ash bursts, temporarily closing nearby airports and - in recent days - prompting officials to close air routes affected by the ash.

With no winds today, ash shot a spectacular 20,000ft into the sky.

Mount Merapi's danger zone was widened yesterday from six miles to nine miles from the peak, because of the heightened threat.