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Indonesia's Mount Merapi Erupts Again, Tens of Thousands Have Fled


Molten lava flows from the crater of Mount Merapi captured in this extended time exposure photograph taken from Klaten district in Central Java province late on November 2. (AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka)

JAKARTA - Indonesia's Mount Merapi blasted ash and gas into the sky on Thursday, killing six more people in the latest in a series of eruptions over the past nine days that claimed 44 lives and forced more than 75,000 to flee their homes.

Heavy rain also lashed the area, cooling flows of lava that were encroaching into some abandoned villages on the slopes of the volcano near Yogyakarta, the cultural heart of Java island.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, director of disaster risk reduction at the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPN), said emergency shelters had been moved to 15 km (9 miles) from the summit from 10 km (6 miles) previously because of the increased strength of the eruptions.

Villagers were evacuated to the shelters -- sometimes forcibly -- last week as the volcano alert level rose.

Indonesia's transport ministry has changed flight paths in the area to keep planes away from the vicinity of Merapi, spokesman Bambang Ervan said.

"We closed routes impacted by the eruption and diverted them to the north and south of Merapi," he told Reuters.


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He said the airports in Solo and Yogyakarta were still operating.

A Qantas Airways flight made an emergency landing in Singapore on Thursday after one of the Airbus A380's engines exploded shortly after take-off, but officials said there appeared to be no link with Merapi.

Passengers said they heard a loud bang and saw parts of the engine fall off, some of which fell onto an Indonesian island.

Indonesia is also struggling with the aftermath of a tsunami in the remote Mentawai islands off Sumatra last week that killed 431 people, with 88 still missing.

And in the islands of East Nusa Tenggara province, flooding has killed at least 15 people, the disaster agency said.

(Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Editing by Andrew Marshall and Sugita Katyal)

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