Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Stretches To 2nd Week NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Indonesia, where he joined a search and rescue mission near the foot of the nation's most active volcano. Mount Merapi has been erupting violently for almost two weeks.
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Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Stretches To 2nd Week

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Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Stretches To 2nd Week

Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Stretches To 2nd Week

Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Stretches To 2nd Week

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NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Indonesia, where he joined a search and rescue mission near the foot of the nation's most active volcano. Mount Merapi has been erupting violently for almost two weeks.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Anthony, where have you been today?

ANTHONY KUHN: And had there been further eruptions, there could've been real trouble for the soldiers and the journalists. The eruption is continuing at a slow rate. It started on the 26th of October, but the biggest blast was on November 5th. And since then, it just keeps on billowing smoke and ash.

INSKEEP: Will you help describe the landscape there, Anthony, and how it's changing? Are there rivers of lava coming down, or is it more ash falling through the air?

KUHN: Now, just to the south of the volcano is the major Javanese city of Jakarta. And so far, that's safe. But we had to abort our mission very quickly this morning because the winds started to change direction and blow south.

INSKEEP: So you have these blasts of the volcano, and they're flinging out ash. And depending on which way the wind is going, you really don't want to be downwind from the volcano at that moment. That's what's happening here?

KUHN: And I spoke to one man who was burned very seriously in his house, hiding under his own mattress. So these flows of gas flow down following riverbeds, coming off the slope of the volcano. And they hit communities near the rivers, and they can be devastating.

INSKEEP: One other thing, Anthony Kuhn. You mentioned you were out with the special forces who were looking to rescue people, or at least recover bodies. Is it believed that there are significant numbers of people still in danger and within range of the volcano?

KUHN: And one reason for this is they have this so-called spiritual guardian of the mountain who didn't think the eruption was going to happen. And a lot of people listened to him. So, you know, as we were going out to the volcano today, we passed farmers cultivating their rice paddies, just about oblivious to this huge volcanic activity going on right to the north of them.

INSKEEP: What happened to that spiritual leader, Anthony?

KUHN: He, himself, became a burned offering to the mountain, you could say. He was found in his home, burned to death in a prayer position. The appointment of the next guardian is up to the local sultan. There's a selection process in progress right now.

INSKEEP: Anthony, thanks very much.

KUHN: Thank you, Steve.

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