Volcano follows tsunami in Indonesia

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The Independent Online

Indonesia's most volatile volcano erupted yesterday, killing at least 18, just a day after a tsunami caused by an earthquake killed more than 100 people elsewhere in the country.

Huge bursts of ash shot from the volcano, 300 miles southeast of the capital Jakarta. Thousands of villagers started streaming off the 9,737ft mountain last night, where the dead included a two-month-old baby.

Earlier, many had refused to move, saying they wanted to tend to crops and protect their homes against looters. It is not the first time the volcano has erupted in their lifetime.

A blast in 2006 killed two people and one in 1930 destroyed 13 villages, leaving over a thousand dead. Already there are fears the current activity could foreshadow a more destructive explosion in the coming weeks or months.

As officials evacuated of thousands of villagers, they were also trying to assess the impact of Monday's 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, about 800 miles from Merapi. The latest toll last night was 108 dead and 502 missing.

Most buildings in the coastal village of Betu Monga were destroyed, said an official with the Department of Fisheries. "Of the 200 people living in that village, only 40 have been found; 160 are still missing, mostly women and children," he said. "We have people reporting to the security post here that they could not hold on to their children, that they were swept away. A lot of people are crying."

Reports via Facebook from a surfer at the Macaronis surfing resort on North Pagai island suggested that all of its villas had been "wiped out".

The website Surfaid described a three-metre-high tsunami crashing through the resort and boats knocking together, before bursting into flames.