Mount Kelud Rumbles, but Villagers Stay Put

Though scientists say an eruption at Indonesia's Mount Kelud volcano may be imminent, thousands of villagers living near the infamous mountain continue to ignore evacuation orders.

Thousands who evacuated have reportedly returned to their homes, complaining that emergency shelters have no food.

Indonesian officials raised the alert to the highest level Tuesday, meaning an eruption is imminent. It followed weeks of measurements showing a pattern of increased tremors and rising temperatures.

Indonesia's top volcano expert, Surono, who goes by only one name, says people living within six miles of the mountain should leave. The government's motto is "safe life," he said.

While Surono would not say what he believes the chances are for an eruption, he did report that there has been "decreased volcanic earthquake activity since yesterday, but the temperature of the water in the volcano has increased to 38 degrees Celsius, which is only a slight increase, but still high."

As many as 116,000 villages have reportedly been ordered to leave and most shelters are jammed with people. But many, according to The Associated Press, have returned home or refused to leave their homes because of food shortages at the shelters.

"There was no food at all," said Darmiashiah, a 33-year-old woman who returned to the village of Sugihwaras inside the evacuation zone. "If I get told to leave again, I will not go," she told the AP.

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta today issued a warning to Americans living and traveling in Indonesia to avoid going within six miles of Kelud.

The volcano sits on the island of Java, about 385 miles east of the capital of Jakarta. It last erupted in 1990, killing dozens. In 1919, an explosion that blew the top off the mountain killed more than 5,000 people.

Historians say that an eruption in the 16th century took an estimated 10,000 lives.

Surono says the eruption in 1919 happened suddenly and was over relatively quickly for a volcano, lasting six to seven hours — characteristic of what would happen if Kelud were to erupt now.

In fact, scientists say the crater lake currently holding the overheating water was created during the 1919 explosion.

Recent volcanic activity concerns Surono, especially when compared to the 1919 eruption. Seismic activity records from then showed "327 volcanic earthquakes prior to the eruption, compared to the over 400 we have today," he said.

Indonesia is the world's most expansive archipelago and sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a hotbed for volcanic activity as a result of plate tectonics. The loudest sound historically recorded was the massive 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, a volcanic island between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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