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Mass exodus as volcano erupts in Indonesia – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Mass exodus as volcano erupts in Indonesia – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Booms from Java’s Mount Kelud heard 130km away, while about 200,000 people flee as ash, sand and rocks rain down.

Last updated: 14 Feb 2014 09:11

A major volcanic eruption in Indonesia has shrouded a large swathe of the country’s most heavily populated island in ash, triggering the evacuation of about 200,000 people and closing three international airports.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said two people died on Friday in the overnight eruption of Java’s Mount Kelud, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the island.

“A rain of ash, sand and rocks” reached up to 15km from the volcano’s crater, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “Sparks of light can be continuously seen at the peak.”

The smell of sulfur and ash hung so thickly in the air that breathing was painful.Insaf Wibowo, Kediri resident

Nugroho said about 200,000 people from 36 villages in eastern Java were being asked to evacuate.

Television pictures showed ash and rocks raining down as terrified locals fled in cars and on motorbikes towards evacuation centres.

Booms could be heard at least 130km away in Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city, and even further afield in Jogyakarta.

Kediri, a normally bustling town about 30km from the mountain, was largely deserted as residents stayed indoors to avoid the choking ash.

“The smell of sulfur and ash hung so thickly in the air that breathing was painful,” Kediri resident Insaf Wibowo told the Associated Press news agency.

Two people were killed when the roofs of their homes collapsed under the weight of the ash and volcanic debris, the disaster agency said.

Tremors on Friday continued to wrack the volcano, which had been rumbling for weeks, but scientists did not expect another major eruption.

Ring of Fire

The 1,731-metre Mount Kelud has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 1500, including around 10,000 deaths in a massive 1568 eruption.

The last major eruption was in 1990, when the volcano kicked out searing fumes and lava that killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds.

It is one of some 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier this month another volcano, Mount Sinabung on western Sumatra island, unleashed an enormous eruption , leaving at least 16 people dead.

Sinabung has been erupting on an almost daily basis since September, coating villages and crops with volcanic ash and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

EU report: Corruption widespread in the bloc – Europe – Al Jazeera English

EU report: Corruption widespread in the bloc – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Corruption affects all 28 member countries of the European Union and costs their economies about $162.19bn (120bn Euros) a year, according to an European Union report.

The report, the EU’s first on corruption, was issued on Monday by Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, the AP news agency reported.

Malmstrom said in a statement that “corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the result of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue.

Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough

Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

“Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough.”

The report said that an increasing number of EU citizens, who were surveyed as part of the report, thought it was getting worse.

Almost all companies in Greece, Spain and Italy believe it is widespread and, among businesses, belief is widespread that the only way to succeed is through political connections.

Corruption is considered rare in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, according to the report, a finding that reflects the work of Transparency International’s corruption perception index. It named Greece as the worst performer in the EU, sharing 80th place with China. Denmark was seen as the least corrupt.

Construction companies, which often tender for government contracts, are the most affected. Almost eight in ten of those asked complained about corruption.

Overall, 43 percent of companies see corruption as a problem. The cost to the European economy is almost equivalent to the size of the Romanian economy.

Corruption is commonplace

Eight out of ten EU citizens believe that close links between business and politics lead to corruption.

“Europe’s problem is not so much with small bribes on the whole,” Carl Dolan of Transparency International in Brussels, told Reuters. “It’s with the ties between the political class and industry.”

“There has been a failure to regulate politicians’ conflicts of interest in dealing with business,” he said.

“The rewards for favouring companies, in allocating contracts or making changes to legislation, are positions in the private sector when they have left office rather than a bribe.”

European Commission: the level of corruption across the EU is ‘breathtaking’

The European Commission recommended better controls and a redoubling of enforcement.

The report was published shortly after Romania’s former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, was sent to jail for four years for taking bribes. He was the first prime minister to be put behind bars since the collapse of communism in Europe in 1989.

The EU has repeatedly raised concerns about a failure to tackle corruption at high-level in Romania and Bulgaria, the bloc’s two poorest members. They have been blocked from joining the passport-free Schengen zone over the issue since their entry.

In October 2012, former European Health Commissioner John Dalli was forced to quit after an associate was accused of asking for 60 million euros from a tobacco company in return for influencing EU tobacco law.

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