MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia » Volcanic ash that has poured from an Indonesian volcano since its deadly eruption last week slowed Friday, though experts warned that Mount Merapi remains dangerous.
The notoriously unpredictable volcano in the heart of Java island roared back to life two weeks ago, killing more than 200 people in a series of eruptions.
Since then, ash has continuously shot out of the crater, occasionally canceling international flights into and out of Jakarta, hundreds of miles to the volcano’s west. After the output slowed overnight, an advisory from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Darwin, Australia, on Friday showed the ash patch was well clear of the capital. The airport in Yogyakarta, at the foot of the mountain, however, remained closed for the eighth day.
Officials warned residents that less ash does not mean the volcano is finished.
"The activity of Merapi is still high, but the intensity of eruptions is reducing now. But people still should be careful. Merapi is still on high alert," said Surano, a state volcanologist who uses only one name.
While the total cost of the disaster has not been tallied yet, Riyadi Martoyo, an official in Sleman district — where most of the people affected by the volcano live — estimated that at least $26 million worth of crops were lost when gas and ash smothered whole villages. Several million dollars worth of forest and fish farms also were lost.
Garuda Indonesia, the country’s flag carrier, said it has lost $280,000)each day since the airport at Yogyakarta closed.
The U.S. State Department has urged travelers to stay clear of Mount Merapi, which has erupted many times in the last century.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.