Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi unleashes biggest blast yet

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Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi unleashes biggest blast yet
Mount Merapi:  Indonesia's military forced villagers off the slopes of the country's most volatile volcano Mount Merapi on Saturday, as the mountain sent clouds of gray ash cascading down its slopes in its most powerful explosion yet.

The notoriously unpredictable volcano forced the temporarily closure of an airport and claimed another life, bringing the death toll this week to 36.

Hundreds of miles (kilometres) to the west, meanwhile, searchers said 135 people missing since a tsunami hit a remote Indonesian island chain have been found alive.

Volunteer searcher Patigor Siahaan said three children - aged 6, 7 and 8 - were among the survivors. They were discovered under the ruins of their collapsed house, where their parents died. Most of the others were found in small groups.

There are still 163 missing and 413 dead from the tsunami, officials said.

Many survivors waited for food and other supplies as violent storms grounded all aid deliveries. Some of those injured by the towering wave - including a 12-year-old girl with an open chest wound - were suffering without enough painkillers and could die if they aren't evacuated, doctors said at one hospital.

The catastrophes, striking earlier in the week at different ends of the seismically active country, have severely tested the emergency response network. Indonesia lies in the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a cluster of fault lines prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Mount Merapi, which sprang back to life early this week, unleashed a terrifying 21-minute eruption early on Saturday, followed by more than 350 volcanic tremors and 33 ash bursts, said Surono, chief of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.

Government camps well away from the base were overflowing with refugees, including most of the 11,000 people who live on the mountain's fertile slopes. They were told, with signs the danger level was climbing, that they should expect to stay for three more weeks.

Despite such warnings, many people have returned to their land to check on precious crops and livestock. The new eruption triggered a chaotic pre-dawn exit, killing a 44-year-old woman who was fleeing by motorcycle, said Rusdiyanto, head of disaster management office in the main city of Yogyakarta.

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