Mount Merapi volcano erupted violently early on Saturday, sparking chaos as people tried to scramble to safety, fearful of a repeat of this week’s deadly explosions.
The loud blast at around 1am sent soldiers and police posted near the volcano fleeing, along with hundreds of locals, who quickly clogged roads with cars and motorcycles.
No one was known to have died in the actual eruption on Saturday, but two people were killed during the chaotic evacuation, hospital staff said.
So far, 36 people have been confirmed dead as a direct result of the eruption of the volcano earlier this week.
“A total of 38 people have been killed because of burn injuries and accidents since the 26th. Two of them, an adult woman and a one year-old boy, died because of accidents,” Sardjito hospital spokesman Arif Novianto said.
Kris Budianto, 51, told how he fell off his motorbike as he fled to safety.
“I was sleeping on the veranda when loud booms like thunder woke me up,” he said.
“I quickly took my motorbike and rushed down in panic to safety. But on the way down, I fell from my motorbike.” He has facial wounds and his right arm is broken.
Volcanic ash rained down on Yogyakarta airport, 26 kilometres away and just over an hour’s flight time from Bali, shutting it for over an hour as workers cleared the runway.
“The runway of the airport was covered with volcanic ash. We had to close for about an hour as the ash could get inside aeroplane engines,” Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said.
Government volcanologist Subandrio said more eruptions were likely.
“We think there will be other explosive eruptions because we discovered a lot of magma on Merapi’s crater,” he said.
He said the government had to be “more serious” about enforcing the exclusion zone amid persistent reports of people leaving displacement camps to tend to their livestock on the volcano’s slopes.
“We will even have to evaluate whether we need to widen the exclusion zone because we should not downplay the threat — Mount Merapi is extremely dangerous,” he said.
More than 50,000 people are living in cramped temporary shelters near the central Java city of Yogyakarta after being ordered to evacuate on Monday.
But officials have said many had returned to feed their livestock or check their properties, and it is not known how many people were on the mountain during the latest eruption.