May 15, 2006Many Indonesian villagers are refusing to
evacuate the flanks of Mount Merapi despite scientists' and
government warnings of the volcano's imminent eruption, according to
Instead locals are preparing food offerings and performing ceremoniessuch as the traditional Javanese dance seen in this photo taken on Sundayin a bid to appease the volcano's spirits.
Local authorities in charge of the evacuations are particularly stymied by an 80-year-old spiritual leader called Maridjan, who refuses to leave and insists the volcano is safe.
"There is no risk," Maridjan told the Associated Press from outside his home, just four miles (six kilometers) from the volcano's peak. "I am still waiting here."
The late king of the nearby city of Yogyakarta (Indonesia map) gave Maridjan the official title of "key holder of Mount Merapi," according to the AP.
This honorary position requires him to watch over the spirits that he and many other villagers believe live above the mountain. Maridjan says he will not leave the volcano until he receives a sign from the departed king.
But earth scientists say that the eruptions are intensifying, and Merapi's growing lava dome could collapse very soon, sending clouds of hot ash streaming down the mountain at a few hundred miles an hour.
The mountain's western flank is being steadily scarred by fresh lava flows, and an eruption today sent clouds of hot gases and debris nearly two and a half miles (four kilometers) down the volcano's slope.
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