Indonesia Issues Highest Alert Level for Merapi Volcano

Authorities in Indonesia have raised the alert status of a volcano on Java island to the highest level, prompting the mandatory evacuation of 34-thousand nearby residents.

Hot lava and thick clouds of smoke rose from the crater of Mount Merapi Saturday. Officials are warning the volcano may erupt at any moment, but are unable to provide details on exactly when it may occur.

Molten lava began spilling from the crater earlier this month, following warnings from scientists that it may erupt within days. The residents living near Mount Merapi had been on standby alert, the second highest alert level, for weeks. But many have been reluctant to abandon their villages.

Indonesian vulcanologists are warning that the massive lava dome that crowns Merapi has been growing at an alarming rate.

They say once the dome collapses, streams of lava are expected to pour rapidly down the mountain's slopes.

Merapi is one of more than 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

It last erupted in 1994, killing about 60 people. One of its most destructive eruptions was in 1930, when about 13-hundred people were killed.