Towering clouds of hot ash gushed from the mouth of Indonesia's deadly Mount Merapi today, forcing motorists in cities 20 miles away to use their headlights in broad daylight and raising concerns about aviation safety. The death toll climbed to 44. As rocks and ash rained from the sky, soldiers helped load thousands of frightened villagers into trucks for a second day, including those seeking shelter in crowded emergency shelters.
With no winds early today, Merapi's white clouds shot a spectacular 20,000 feet into the sky. Gusts later carried the smoke westward, with cities and towns up to 150 miles dusted in white powder. Scientists said pressure apparently building inside Merapi's crater may mean the worst is yet to come. "It's never acted like this before," says a volcanologist, watching the wide, fast sweeps of a needle on a seismograph machine. "It looks like we may be entering an even worse stage."