Some Indonesian Volcano Survivors Return Home

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JOGJAKARTA, Indonesia -- Thousands of people who fled the erupting Indonesian volcano have started to return to their homes. The Indonesian government has reduced the danger zone from 12 to 6 miles from the crater.

Meanwhile, officials are still counting the cost in death and destruction from the eruption of Mount Merapi.

The most recent volcanic explosion more than doubled Indonesia's death toll, which now stands at nearly 200. Most of the casualties were torched by hot gases measuring up to 600 degrees centigrade.

Tri Titik shared with CBN News how villagers fled in panic when Mt. Merapi began spewing lava. She said she desperately tried to go back to her house to save her 11-year-old son Dafi, but the thick smoke prevented her from reaching him.

Fortunately, Dafi was rescued by others and was among the 28 burn victims in the burn unit near the volcano. More than 90 percent of his body was burned.

"I am saddened with what happened to my son," Titik said. "But I am very happy that he is alive. The doctor said that his condition is getting better."

More than 350,000 people have been displaced as a result of the Mt. Merapi explosions. They stay in cramped evacuation centers and this has threatened their health. Christian medical workers with Operation Blessing International continue to visit the evacuation centers, providing health checkups and medicines to the displaced.

According to geologist Sukhyar, the volcano's continuous activity may prevent more of the evacuees from returning home anytime soon.

"Since the 3rd of November, there have been uninterrupted eruptions, the column rising up to 6000 meters from the summit of the volcano," Sukhyar said. "Our goal is to get the people out of the danger zone."

Meanwhile, the city of Jogjakarta and the surrounding areas are all covered with gray ash.

The ash fall has been so severe that the people have been advised to wear masks for protection from respiratory problems. Local officials hope this will end soon, but as Mt. Merapi continues to erupt, things remain far from getting better.

The lava and pyroclastic flow may intensify and authorities fear another devastating scenario -- the possibility of flash floods as a result of cold lava mudflow.

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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