MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — Just days before President Barack Obama's long-awaited visit to Indonesia, international carriers canceled flights to the capital over concerns about a volcano spewing ash hundreds of miles away.
The notoriously volatile Mount Merapi unleashed nearly 2 billion cubic feet of gas, rocks and ash Friday — its most powerful eruption in a century.
Some 138 people have died on its slopes in the past two weeks, and authorities were still struggling Sunday to deal with those injured in the latest blast. The closure of smaller airports near the volcano has delayed the arrival of burn cream and ventilators for those whose skin and lungs were singed by searing gases.
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Obama is scheduled to touch down in Jakarta on Tuesday as part of a 10-day Asian tour. Since taking office, Obama has already twice postponed visits to Indonesia — the world's most populous Muslim nation, where he spent four years as a child.
Paul Belmont, a U.S. Embassy spokesman, said there has been no talk yet of canceling.
"But certainly, if the situation evolves into something like what we saw in Europe not long ago (when the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul forced closed airports for a week) it's something we'd have to take seriously," Belmont told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Video: Death toll soars from Indonesian volcano (on this page)
Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa and most other international carriers on Saturday announced they had temporarily halted flights to the capital, 280 miles west of Merapi.
"The volcanic ash presence in the airways surrounding Jakarta could cause severe damage to our aircraft and engines which could impair safety," said Azharuddin Osman, director of operations for Malaysia Airlines.
Merapi's latest round of eruptions began Oct. 26, followed by more than a dozen other powerful blasts and thousands of tremors.
The volcano continued to rumble and groan over the weekend, at times spitting ash up to five miles (eight kilometers) in the air, dusting windshields, rooftops and leaves on trees hundreds of miles (kilometers) away.
Indonesian officials were scrambling to deal with the aftermath of Friday's inferno, which left bodies of villagers frozen in their last moments, covered in a thick charcoal-like ash. Several photos taken by disaster management officials showed corpses welded together, as mothers and fathers clutched their children.
The blast killed more 90 people and injured 200, said Sigit Priohutomo, a senior official at Sardjito hospital, where some patients were admitted with burns covering up to 95 percent of their bodies.
The tiny hospital at the foot of the mountain has the only burn unit in area. But with just nine beds, it's been forced to turn away all but the most severe cases.
Slideshow: Indonesian eruption (on this page)
With nearby airports closed because of poor visibility, hospital officials said lots of supplies — burn cream, oxygen masks and saline solution for IVs — were stuck in Jakarta.
Doctors said at least four patients still desperately needed ventilators, which protect scorched and inflamed lung tissue from ash still hanging in the air.
Until the machines arrive, nursing students were pumping emergency respirators — normally only used in short ambulance trips — by hand.
Conditions were also grim at emergency shelters in the shadow of the volcano that were crammed with more than 200,000 people evacuated from the mountain.
With muddy floors and flies landing on the faces of sleeping refugees, many complained of poor sanitation, saying there were not enough toilets or clean drinking water.
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The Indonesian government, has put the city of Yogyakarta, 20 miles away, on high alert.
The biggest threat is the Code River, which flows into the city of 400,000 from the 9,700-foot mountain and could act as a conduit for deadly volcanic mudflows that form in heavy rains.
Racing at speeds of 60 mph, the molten lava, rocks and other debris, can destroy everything in their path. People living near the river's banks have been advised to stay away.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 235 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanoes because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped string of faults that lines the Pacific Ocean.
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