Thai and Global Aerospace News
Move comes as death toll climbs to 138 as Indonesian volcano unleashes searing gas that torches nearby villages
Several airlines have suspended flights into Indonesia's capital Jakarta after Mount Merapi's worst eruption in a century spewed volcanic ash up to five miles (8km) into the air.
The move came as number of people killed by Mount Merapi in the last two weeks climbed to 138 after the volcano unleashed a surge of searing gas yesterday that torched houses and trees and incinerated villagers.
Officials at Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and AirAsia fear the ash is a safety threat and could damage aircraft.
"The volcanic ash presence in the airways surrounding Jakarta could cause severe damage to our aircraft and engines which could impair the safety of our operations including passengers and crew," said Azharuddin Osman, director of operations for Malaysia Airlines.
The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April forced the closure of most European airports for a week and led to the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights.
The Indonesian government has expanded the volcanic "danger zone" to a ring 12 miles (20km) from the peak, bringing it to the edge of Yogyakarta in central Java, which has been put on its highest alert.
Mount Merapi is still spitting ash up to five miles (8km) in the air, dusting windshields, rooftops and leaves on trees hundreds of miles to the west. Yogyakarta's tiny Sardjito hospital at the foot of the volcano is struggling to cope with survivors, some with burns on up to 95% of their bodies.
At least 94 people died yesterday when a gas cloud incinerated fleeing villagers and severely injured more than 200 others who suffered burns, respiratory problems, broken bones and cuts.
The hospital, where bodies were piled up in the morgue yesterday, has the only burn unit in town, but it has only nine beds and it has been forced to turn away all but the most severe cases.
Those with severe smoke inhalation – which scorches and inflames lung tissue, making breathing difficult, if not impossible – get top priority, since the only ventilators in the hospital are in the unit. The severity and extent of burns are also considered.
Conditions are also deteriorating at emergency shelters in the shadow of the volcano that are crammed with more than 200,000 people evacuated from the mountain.
Many evacuees complained of poor sanitation, saying there were not enough toilets or clean drinking water. They are also worried about what is yet to come.
"It's scary... the eruption just keeps going on," said Wajiman, 58, who was sitting in a shelter near a girl reading a newspaper headlined: "Merapi isn't finished yet."
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