Source AP ©

Indonesian local residents come back home despite of the warnings of authorities

Thousands of villagers defied warnings of a major eruption at one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanos, leaving refugee centers Wednesday and returning to its slopes to tend to crops and animals.

Late Tuesday, tens of thousands fled or were evacuated from villages close to Mount Kelud after it was placed on the highest alert level, meaning scientists believe an eruption may be imminent.

The 1,731-meter (5,679-foot) volcano, which has been showing signs of an eruption for several weeks, last blew its top in 1990, killing dozens. In 1919, a powerful explosion destroyed a hundred villages and claimed 5,160 lives.

Local authorities began mandatory evacuations of more than 100,000 people living within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the peak late Tuesday, a statement from the national disaster agency said.

It was unclear exactly how many people had left, but on Wednesday morning thousands left temporary evacuation camps by truck and motor bikes and returned to their villages, complaining they had received no food and saying they must tend crops, witnesses and officials said.

"There was no food at all," said Darmiashiah, a 33-year-old woman who returned to the village of Sugihwaras, well within in the evacuation zone. "If I get told to leave again, I will not go," said Darmiashiah, who goes by a single name.

Emergency coordinator Herry Noegroho promised more tents and food at refugee centers.

Unlike some volcanos, Mount Kelud does not smoke or rumble in the run up to an eruption.

Scientists say the temperature of its crater-lake is rising quickly and they have logged hundreds of volcanic earthquakes triggered deep inside the mountain, both signs an eruption may be imminent.

"It never shows its true nature," said government volcanologist Surono, who goes by a single name. "It is better to raise the status than see people killed."

Kelud is on Java island about 620 kilometers (385 miles) east of the capital, Jakarta.

Its explosive activity typically starts with a steam blast - when surfacing magma meets ground water. Such eruptions produce hot mud flows and pyroclastic surges and flows.

Indonesia has 400 volcanoes, of which around 150 are active.

Evacuation orders are often patchily enforced. Without compensating farmers for loses to crops or livestock, it is difficult to force them to leave their villages. Another worry for homeowners is thieves targeting empty properties.

Many people were heeding the warning, however.

"I can still remember the last eruption," said 70-year-old Kasemi who was staying in a government building with dozens of other people. "It went dark because of the ash and the explosions were terrifying."

Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" - a series of volcanos and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

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