Blistering gas from Indonesia's most volatile volcano spread further than expected on Thursday night, incinerating houses at the edge of the danger zone, triggering chaotic evacuations and pushing the death toll in more than a week to 102.
Soldiers joined rescue operations in Bronggang, nine miles from the mouth of the crater, pulling charred corpses from smouldering homes and then lifting them into the backs of trucks caked in grey dust.
Dozens of injured, most with severe burns, were carried away on stretchers.
"We're totally overwhelmed here!" said Heru Nogroho, a spokesman at the Sardjito hospital, as the number of bodies taken to their mortuary climbed to 54.
More than 70 others were injured, many critically, with severe burns.
Merapi's booming explosion just after midnight triggered an emergency evacuation.
Men with ash-covered faces streamed down the scorched slopes on motorcycles, followed by truckloads of women and children.
Up until this week, the village of Bronggang, home to around 80 families, was considered to be within the safety zone.
The death toll from the volcano later climbed to 102, officials confirmed.
The toll included 44 killed before Thursday night's massive gas burst.