Seventeen miles north of Yogyakarta, a city in Indonesia, looms a killer the locals call the "mountain of fire." Peaking at 9,738 feet in elevation, the volcano known as Mount Merapi has recently wreaked havoc on the Southeast Asian country. On October 26, the volcano began to erupt, spewing lava, hot gas and boulders down its mountainside. Merapi's wrath has killed more than 300 people and devastated the land as its hot mixture reached temperatures upwards of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientist call the mountain's blasts "pyroclastic flow" because Merapi shoots lava at the speed of a jet airplane--roughly 450 mph--creating lightening-fast landslides.
Mount Merapi's recent activity is the worst the region has seen in 140 years. Even though the volcano has killed a number of locals, many Indonesians who live near Merapi find a certain mysticism to it that can prove dangerous. Three dozen locals did not heed warnings to evacuate prior to Merapi's eruption and died as a result. The Indonesian government has been heavily criticized for failing to force people to evacuate the dangerous slopes of Mount Merapi, home to populous cities such as Yogyakarta.
Indonesia sits directly on what is known as the "Ring of Fire," an area where massive numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. As residents to Yogyakarta remain on edge, with Merapi in its shadows, the rest of Indonesia braces for possible eruptions of the nearly 129 active volcanoes in the country.
"For Javanese, Merapi is the most holy place-- it's like the center of the universe." --Bernanrd Adeney Risakotta, Gadjah Mada University
"I never thought about that, never thought it would happen this big, to destroy our village, our homes." --local resident
1. Where is Indonesia?
2. What is a volcano?
3. What spews from volcanoes during an eruption?
4. What is a natural disaster?
1. Why do you think Mount Merapi took the lives of so many people living below it? Do you think the government is responsible for failing to force evacuations?
2. How is the Mount Merapi disaster similar to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the U.S.? How is it different?
3. Why do you think people live in areas, like Yogyakarta, that are prone to natural disasters?
4. What parts of the United States are considered a part of the "Ring of Fire?"