( AP ) - Villagers fled the slopes of one of Indonesia's deadliest volcanos Saturday after seismic readings indicated that an eruption had started after weeks of heightened activity.
The volcano in the heart of densely populated Java island was shrouded in fog and no visual confirmation of the apparent eruption was possible before night fell, government seismologist Umar Rosadi said.
By early Saturday evening, detecting instruments close to the crater were still operating, indicating any eruption had not been large enough to damage them, he said. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Scientists said it was impossible to predict whether larger eruptions were on the way.
Scores of people, including women hauling babies in slings, descended from the mountain in police trucks and on bicycles and motorcycles. Some were in tears, and many wore masks to protect against volcanic ash.
"I am afraid because the authorities say this eruption will be worse than the ones that have come before," said Marsini, resident of a village three miles from the crater. "They say there may be poisonous gas. I am leaving now."
Rosadi and another government scientist said official monitors had left their posts after detecting continuous tremors, indicating an eruption had begun.
For weeks, authorities have warned of an impending eruption and pleaded with villagers to move to tent camps or government buildings.
Thousands have evacuated villages closest to the crater but many people have insisted on staying behind to tend to crops or look after their houses.
Some apparently believe a local myth stating if they stayed at home without switching indoor lights on or speaking in a loud voice then the mountain would not erupt.
In 1990, Mount Kelud killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds. In 1919, a powerful explosion that could be heard hundreds of miles away destroyed dozens of villages and killed at least 5,160.
Scientists fear a buildup of magma under Kelud's crater lake could trigger a violent blast, sending a torrent of mud, ash and rock careering down the side of the 5,679-foot mountain.
The mountain has been on its highest alert status for more than two weeks, but in the last 48 hours the intensity of the quakes and the temperature of its lake have exceeding those in the days preceding the 1990 blast, scientists say.
Indonesia has about 100 active volcanos, more than any nation.
The country is spread across 17,500 islands and is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire" - a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.
At least three are currently erupting elsewhere in the country, including Mount Anak Krakatau, which lies of the northern tip of Java island. The mountain was formed after the famous Krakatau volcano erupted in 1883 killing thousands, but it is not seen as at risk of a major blast.