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Indonesian Villagers Return to Volcano, Despite Warnings


Despite a warning that an eruption could come any time, some Indonesians are defying evacuation orders and returning to the slopes of the volcano Mount Merapi.

The villagers, mostly men in charge of households, say they will rely on natural signs to know when the volcano is ready to erupt. Officials say they cannot keep the men out by force and are urging them to keep a motorbike handy for escape.

Thousands of villagers evacuated Mount Merapi on Saturday as the threat level was raised to the maximum. They are staying in overcrowded schools and government buildings to await a possible eruption.

Experts say a dome of lava that has formed on what some call Indonesia's most dangerous volcano could burst at any time, sending a flood of of molten rock down the mountain, and releasing clouds of hot gas that are just as lethal. Already, ash and rock are spewing from the volcano's crater and a stream of lava is oozing down the side.

Indonesian scientists say the massive lava dome has been growing at an alarming rate. They say anything caught in its lava flow will be incinerated instantly.

One of more than 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, Merapi last erupted in 1994, killing about 60 people. Some 1,300 people were killed when the volcano erupted in 1930.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.