Indonesian officials yesterday evacuated 11,000 villagers from around Mount Merapi volcano, as lava and superheated clouds of gas poured repeatedly down its upper slopes.
The mountain's lava dome has swelled in recent weeks, raising fears that it could suddenly collapse and send scalding clouds of fast-moving gas and debris down into populated areas.
The government of nearby Magelang district mobilised more than 40 trucks and cars to evacuate about 11,000 villagers from three subdistricts near the foot of the mountain, said Edy Susanto, a district official.
He said the villagers were taken to temporary shelters, including school buildings.
"Of course it is dangerous. But we don't know for sure whether the lava dome will collapse," said Subandriyo, a government volcanologist who uses only one name.
Red-hot lava flowed as far as half a mile from the mountain's crater, while gas clouds called pyroclastic flows streamed as far as two miles down its south-western slope, Subandriyo said.
The 3,000m mountain is one of the world's most active volcanos.
Activity has risen since a magnitude 6.3 earthquake on May 27 hit a region about 3,020 miles to the south, killing at least 5,862 people.