Indonesia's most volatile volcano, Mount Merapi, has begun to wake up from its long nap. On October 25, Indonesian officials warned all residents living around the mountain to evacuate premises as the alert status for an eruption was raised to the highest level.
Within 24 hours, the volcano caused some 600 earthquakes and spewed out clouds of ash and jets of searing gas, taking the lives of more than 30 people and injuring scores. More than 11,000 villagers living on the slopes of Mount Merapi volcano have been evacuated, but many have chosen to remain in and around their homes to protect their produce and cattle.
Although ash levels have subsided, readings of Merapi's monitoring suggests there will be new eruptions. The pressure building up under a lava dome inside the volcano is likely to create a "pyroclastic flow" - a highly dangerous mix of heat and poisonous gases.
Asia Society's Vice President Communications and Marketing Geoff Spencer said that the current catastrophe on the slopes of Mount Merapi is tragic and horrible, but not unusual.
"The odds are that volcanoes will blow up," Spencer said. "More cataclysmic events are bound to happen. The natural power and destruction of volcanoes is inherent in the culture of Java."
In 1994, Spencer, who was a foreign correspondent at the time, covered the eruption of Mount Merapi, which killed over 60 people. Spencer recounts that villages were flattened, and much of the mountain's agriculture was burned just as the latest eruption.
To read more about Indonesia's natural disasters, click here.