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Indonesia: Eye-witness to Merapi's biggest explosion yet

"The name of my complex is Merapi View. We’ve got a view all right. And a soundtrack."

My journalist friend is thumping on the door.

“We’ve got to go. Now!”

Hot ash lands on my eyelids as I load the suitcases into the car. The essentials. Face mask, goggles, hard drive, laptop, camera.

The ash is choking me.

“We’ve got to go! Now!” I scream through the open doorway, and they’re in the car in seconds.

Ash sticks to the windshield like snow.

Spray. Wipe. Spray. Wipe. Sp … The reservoir for the windshield spray is empty.


We will refill it twice before we reach the relative safety of the south of Yogyakarta. Another 10 kms from the fire mountain.

The evacuation zone has been extended for another five kms to 20 km. Five more kms to be misunderstood or ignored by fear, resilience or stupidity.

I turn on the TV in the hotel room. No way I can sleep. 4 a.m.

There they are.

The bodies, charred black. The skin peeling in gruesome strips. The young, fat boy, unconscious and burned, drool pouring from the corner of his mouth. Medics rushing, panicked, checking mobile phones as they wheel gurneys. Face masks everywhere. Everyone’s a surgeon tonight.

The bodies, wheeled in. Loaded out of battered old Red Cross vans or off the back of pickup trucks.
The peacocks. The baby. The grandma.

I gulp.

We just wanted to see the lava.