Volcano spewing hot ash after lull
A deadly volcano in Indonesia spewed another searing cloud of ash down its slopes, prompting panic and chaos among thousands of villagers who had taken advantage of a lull in activity to rush home and check on their livestock.
Sirens and loudspeakers blared, and people jumped into rivers trying to escape the heat, while others sprinted down the mountain or sped off in cars and trucks, local disaster official Rusdiyanto said.
It was not clear if there were any new casualties, though an official said the ash cloud was not near populated areas. Explosions from Mount Merapi, in central Java, have killed 38 people in the past week.
The new blast came as rescuers hundreds of miles away were finally able to resume food deliveries and evacuate injured victims of a tsunami triggered by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake near a chain of remote islands off western Sumatra.
The number of people killed in the twin catastrophes climbed to almost 500.
The notoriously unpredictable mountain had been mostly quiet after letting out its most powerful eruption of the week on Saturday, sending fiery lava oozing down its slopes, temporarily closing a nearby airport and claiming another life.
A red glow emanated from the volcano's peak, but the violent bursts and rumbling of the past 48 hours were reduced to a mere murmur.
Despite the risk and warnings from officials, thousands of the more than 53,000 people who had been evacuated from the danger zone rushed back to check on their livestock high up on the scorched slopes.
"My farm has been destroyed by volcanic debris and thick dust... All I have left now are my cows and goats," said Subarkah, who lives less than two miles from the peak.
"I have to find grass and bring it up to them, otherwise they'll die."