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Indonesia orders evacuations as volcano threatens to erupt

Indonesian authorities urged thousands of villagers to evacuate after the alert status for the Mount Merapi volcano was raised to the highest level, Reuters reported.

About 40,000 people live near Mount Merapi, and more than 11,000 reside on the southern slope, which is where officials expect the magma to flow. The 9,737-foot volcano has experienced increased activity in the past week and could erupt at any time.

"The magma has been pushed upwards due to the escalating seismic energy and it's about a kilometer below the crater," government vulcanologist Surono told AFP.

While Mount Merapi is the youngest in a group of volcanoes in southern Java, it is also one of the most active in the region. According to The Associated Press, Mount Merapi last erupted in 2006, sending rock fragments racing down the mountain and killing two people. A similar eruption in 1994 took the lives of 70 people.

Over 120 active volcanoes are spread across Indonesia's chain of 17,500 islands. The area is known as the "Ring of Fire" because it is so prone to eruptions and earthquakes.

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