Strong Aftershock Rocks Indonesia Quake Zone

Fresh spurts of lava from a nearby volcano and deteriorating sanitary conditions added to the strain Sunday for hundreds of thousands of survivors of Indonesia's devastating earthquake.

Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanos, spewed more lava and hot clouds of gas and ash Sunday, said Sugiono, a government scientist. Like many Indonesians, he uses one name.

The volcano is north of Yogyakarta, the main city in the densely populated area of Java island hit by May 27's magnitude 6.3 quake.

Merapi's lava dome has swelled in the past week to 100 meters (330 feet), raising fears that it could collapse, officials said. That could release a highly dangerous pyroclastic flow — a fast-moving burst of high-temperature gases and rock fragments — burning anything in its path, the government volcanology center warned.

Scientists say the quake may have contributed to a weakening of the lava dome.

More than a thousand aftershocks have hit the region since the earthquake struck before dawn just over a week ago, killing at least 6,234 people and injuring 30,000 more. Officials estimate that 135,000 homes were destroyed.

Most of the estimated 647,000 people left homeless are living in makeshift shelters, often just plastic tarps to ward off tropical downpours and the hot sun, with no toilets or running water.

Doctors said wells and streams in many villages have become polluted because of the poor sanitary conditions.

"There are still many who are sick, some with skin diseases because of poor sanitation," said Dr. Hendra, a government doctor who has been traveling around the quake zone in a medical van. "The water for washing is dirty and many patients are not taking proper care of their wounds."

He said health personnel still had not reached many villages in hilly areas.

More than 50 people were staying Saturday in two large empty chicken coops in Pentong in Bantul district. Flies buzzed everywhere, and children played barefoot on bamboo slats encrusted with chicken droppings.

The British medical aid agency Merlin said it was concerned that the villagers could catch bird flu or salmonella, and appealed for more tents.

The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal for US$103 million (euro78 million) to pay for recovery efforts over the next six months — with about half of that for rebuilding homes.

An international relief effort has picked up pace in recent days, although aid has yet to reach some remote areas.