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The Mountain of Blue Fire

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10/19/2007

Indonesian volcano blast expected

Image: Police officers help an elderly woman during a forced evacuation of a village on the slope of Mount Kelud near the town of Kediri, East Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007. [Agencies]

MOUNT KELUD, Indonesia
-- Armed police forced tens of thousands of reluctant residents to leave the slopes of one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanos Friday amid warnings that an eruption was imminent.

Scientists raised the alert at Mount Kelud to the highest level this week, pointing to rising temperatures and deep underground tremors. Authorities ordered 116,000 people living along the fertile slopes to evacuate, but many have refused, saying they wanted to tend to crops and herds.

"If we don't force them -- in this case with a showing of firearms -- the villagers would not budge, although we have repeatedly reminded them of the danger," said local police chief Col. Tjuk Basuki. "We had no choice but to do this for their safety."

Mount Kelud, on the densely populated island of Java, last erupted in 1990, killing dozens. In 1919, a powerful explosion, heard hundreds of miles away destroyed dozens of villages and killed 5,160 people.

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