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Death toll rises to 4 in Indonesian volcano eruption

February 16, 2014 - 12:05am

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The death toll has risen to four from a volcanic eruption on Indonesia’s main island of Java that has displaced tens of thousands, an official said Saturday.

“The Mount Kelud eruption so far has claimed four lives, displaced 56,089 people but none is missing,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

The latest victim from Thursday’s eruption was a 97-year-old woman who died from breathing difficulties. The three previous victims were also elderly villagers ranging from 60 to 80 years of age who died either from respiratory ailments or collapsing debris.

Nugroho said the four victims were residents of a village within 7 kilometers (4.34 miles) of the volcano’s crater and one of the hardest-hit areas where the volcanic ash and rock grew to about 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) thick.

The authorities declared an exclusion zone with a radius of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), and thousands of villagers were still sheltered in evacuation centers on the eastern side of the island.

The volcano has stopped erupting but white smoke was still billowing up to 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) high from its crater.

Meanwhile, Malang airport in East Java and Semarang and Cilacap airports in Central Java reopened Saturday, while the island’s four other airports remain closed, said Bambang Ervan, spokesman for the Transportation Ministry.

Ervan said the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center had declared Indonesian air space clean from volcanic ash.

Juanda international airport in East Java could open later Saturday, while Bandung airport in West Java will reopen Sunday, Ervan said.

“The volcano ceased spewing ash and rock but airports are still blanketed by volcanic ash and air transport operations remain grounded,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Nugroho, said earlier in the day.

He said airport operators were still cleaning up their facilities while waiting for results of evaluations by authorities before they could resume normal activities.

The two airports in the capital Jakarta were still open, as well as the one on the resort island of Bali, officials said.

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