Volcano about to erupt

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The Independent Online

A deadly Indonesian volcano is spewing clouds of white smoke as the temperature of its crater lake soars, but thousands of residents are defying warnings of a major eruption, choosing to tend crops and livestock on its slopes.

The top scientist monitoring Mount Kelud said Sunday the temperature of its crater lake had reached 76 degrees Celsius — a rise of more than 25 C over the last 24 hours, indicating a blast could be imminent.

The spike indicated magma within the volcano was close to breaking through to the surface, possibly sending a torrent of mud, ash and rock known as lahar down the mountain, said Surono, who uses a single name.

Despite the threat, authorities said 25,000 people were ignoring evacuation orders and remained in the danger zone around Kelud in the heart of densely populated Java island. There was no attempt made to stop people from traveling inside a 6-mile zone around the peak that officials said is off-limits.

"If I live in a shelter, I can't make money," said Buhirin, a 74-year-old farmer living well within the danger zone. "I have the courage to stay because I have experienced three Kelud eruptions. I know where the lahar will flow."

Kelud — one of more than 100 active volcanos in Indonesia — has been on the highest alert level for more than two weeks. On Saturday, a spike in activity led scientists to wrongly declare an eruption had begun.

Surono said the extreme heat in the lake was creating a cloud of steam and smoke some 500 meters (1,600 feet) high.

While warning of a possible eruption, scientists have also said a blast may be small or gradual — or might not happen at all given the unpredictable nature of the 5,679-foot mountain.

In 1990, Mount Kelud killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds. In 1919, a powerful explosion that could be heard hundreds of miles and killed at least 5,160.

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