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Indonesian Volcano Erupts Again

Motorists ride as pyroclastic material from the eruption of Mount Merapi billows in the background in Cangkringan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 31 Oct 2010

Indonesia's most volatile volcano erupted again Sunday, triggering panic among thousands of people who had returned to the mountain to check on crops and livestock.

Indonesia sent in troops Saturday to forcibly evacuate villagers from the slopes of Mount Marapi, but the volcano quieted after an eruption earlier in the day and people started returning to their homes.

The Indonesian Red Cross says at least 36 people have died since the mountain began spewing ash and searing gases in a string of eruptions that began Tuesday. There was no word Sunday on further casualties.

Hundreds of kilometers to the west, rough seas and bad weather calmed, allowing the delivery of disaster aid to the remote Indonesian islands of Mentawai, hit by a major earthquake and tsunami several days ago. The official toll climbed to 449 Sunday, with scores missing.

Monsoon weather had hampered efforts to ferry tents, medicine, food and water to thousands of people living in makeshift camps on the island chain, which is more than a half-day's travel in favorable conditions.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the areas Thursday and told survivors the government is doing everything it can.

An official with Indonesia's meteorology agency told VOA that an early warning system put in place after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami had failed, costing some lives.

The European Union has pledged $2 million in aid for the survivors of the two disasters.

European aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said Thursday the money will help about 65,000 tsunami survivors in the Mentawai islands and 22,000 eruption survivors in central Java.

A mass funeral was held in central Java for about 20 of the victims of Tuesday's volcanic eruption. Mount Merapi, whose name means "mountain of fire," last erupted in 2006, killing two people.

Indonesia straddles several fault lines that make the vast island chain vulnerable to volcanic and seismic activity.

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