MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Two men who sought shelter from erupting Mount Merapi in an emergency bunker on the volcano's fiery slopes were found dead from burns on Friday, an official said.
The men fled to the steel shelter on Wednesday when they were helping to evacuate a village during a burst of activity at the volcano in central Indonesia, and the bunker was later covered with up to 6 feet of debris as hot as 572 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soldiers in fire-retardant clothing found the two bodies at 7:55 a.m. (0055 GMT) after digging through the debris with shovel and backhoes, said Widi Sutikno, head of volcano relief operations.
"We found the bodies were burned because of the hot temperatures in the bunker," Sutikno said.
Metro TV said one of the bodies was found on the floor, while the second was immersed in a bath, apparently trying to escape the fierce heat.
It was not immediately clear whether the bunker, one of several which dot Merapi's slopes, was designed to shield people from extreme heat and malfunctioned, or was built only to protect those inside from light showers of volcanic debris.
An ambulance at the scene brought the deceased to Sardjito hospital in Yogyakarta, about 250 miles east of the capital Jakarta, Sutikno said.
The dead were identified only by two single names, Eceng and Warjono, he said.
Rescue efforts had been halted at dusk Thursday but resumed at dawn Friday.
Scientists had thought that the 9,700-foot Merapi was calming down after weeks of activity, but violent eruptions Wednesday led to the re-evacuation of thousands of villagers and the government again put the peak on its highest alert level.
"It was the most terrifying cloud I have ever seen in my life," villager Basirun said of Wednesday's activity.
Merapi continued to spew out scorching gas clouds and rock fragments early Friday, said Triyani of the volcanology office.
Scientist Antonius Ratdomopurbo said the resurgence in activity was likely caused by the collapse of a section of volcano's lava dome, which has been growing in recent weeks as lava emerges from its core.