Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano has erupted, sending clouds of hot gas and ash over nearby fields and villages. The alert for Merapi was raised to its highest level at the weekend. While many people have already left, some residents are refusing to go. Several shopkeepers have opened their stores while many schools remain open. The head of the Merapi section at the Vulcanological Research Centre in Yogyakarta has warned that the eruption process could be gradual rather than a sudden burst. Merapi is about 450 kilometres east of the capital Jakarta on the island of Java and sits in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire. Some 5,000 people living nearest to the crater have been forced to evacuate their homes. Many, however, are continuing to return during the day to tend to livestock. One of the most active volcanos in Indonesia, Merapi killed 70 people when it erupted in 1994.