Mount Merapi in Central Java killed 18 people in another huge eruption on Friday, a hospital source said, as the government widened the danger zone and ordered new evacuations.
The latest deaths bring the total toll to more than 60 since the country’s most active volcano started erupting on October 26.
“The death toll rose to 18 people. Their bodies are badly burnt,” said Sri Suyatini, a spokeswoman for Sarjito general hospital in Yogyakarta near the volcano.
“We are treating now 58 people for burn injuries and respiratory problems due to the volcanic ash.”
Government volcanologists said Friday’s blasts were the biggest yet.
“This is the biggest eruption so far. The heat-clouds went down the slopes as far as 13 kilometres and the explosion was heard as far as 20 kilometres away,” volcanologist Surono said.
The exclusion zone was widened from 15 to 20 kilometres around the mountain and anyone living inside was ordered to evacuate their homes and shelters immediately, he said.
Some 100,000 people are already living in temporary shelters.
In neighbouring Bali – an hour’s flight from Yogyakarta – Mt Batur, one of two volcanoes on the island, has been placed on alert for a possible eruption, along with 19 others around the country.