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Indonesia: Worst might be over on volcano

By the CNN Wire Staff
A motorcyclist rides through a village covered with ash from Mount Merapi eruption in central Java on Thursday.
A motorcyclist rides through a village covered with ash from Mount Merapi eruption in central Java on Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Generally speaking, Mount Merapi has passed its dangerous phase," the government says
  • It cited recent eruptions vs. historic ones and compared magma flow
  • Eruptions that started on October 26 and have killed 191 people
  • Nearly 344,000 residents have been displaced

More photos of the eruption's aftermath

(CNN) -- The worst might be over on Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano, disaster officials said Thursday.

They urged calm in the aftermath of recent eruptions, which started on October 26 and have killed 191 people.

"Generally speaking, Mount Merapi has passed its dangerous phase," the National Agency for Disaster Management said.

It cited recent eruptions versus historic ones. Merapi's recent eruptions have released about 140 million cubic meters of magma, the disaster agency said. The previous record flow occurred in 1872, at 100 million cubic meters.

The information was released in an attempt to reassure Indonesians, especially those in the Yogyakarta and Central Java area.

Despite that, government volcanology experts have kept Merapi's alert level at 4, the highest.

On Wednesday, the Merapi Disaster Health Team said that the recent eruptions have seriously injured 145 people, and left scores of others less severely hurt.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Indonesia
  • Volcanoes

The eruptions have displaced nearly 344,000 residents, many who are now living in refugee camps, the National Agency for Disaster Management said.

To restore a sense of normalcy for displaced students, classes have started at the camps, disaster officials said Thursday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called the volcano eruptions a crisis situation. Over the weekend, he and several of his ministers visited Yogyakarta to oversee relief efforts.

On Thursday, disaster officials said dredging has begun. The work is being done to limit further destruction.

"We've taken steps to anticipate possible lava floods from upstream," said Syamsul Maarif, the head of the National Agency for Disaster Management.

The 3,000-meter (9,800-foot) Merapi, in Central Java, is famously unpredictable. About 1,300 people died when it erupted in 1930.

Many people continue to live in the shadow of the volcano, raising food and livestock.

The president has announced that residents will receive compensation for livelihoods and animals lost to the eruptions. The government will buy endangered cows on the volcano, Yudhoyono said. Many of those who live on its slopes risked their lives by staying or returning to feed their cows during lulls of volcanic activity.

CNN's Kathy Quiano contributed to this report.