YOGYAKARTA (Indonesia) - INDONESIA'S Mount Merapi erupted three times on Tuesday, killing at least 13 people and causing thousands to flee as it emitted searing clouds and volcanic ash.

Twelve bodies were found by rescuers at a house near the volcano and a baby died elsewhere, with predictions that the toll was likely to rise. Before the latest eruptions people living in the shadow of Indonesia's most active volcano had been warned to evacuate or risk being killed.

'We heard three explosions around 6pm (1100 GMT, 7pm Singapore time) spewing volcanic material as high as 1.5km and sending heat clouds down the slopes,' government volcanologist Surono told AFP. Yogyakarta city search and rescue official Taufiq told reporters that 12 people had been killed at one location.

'The bodies were found around the house of Merapi's gatekeeper Mbah (grandfather) Marijan,' he said.

'Some were found inside the house, others outside. They were burnt by heat clouds. We've not found Mbah Marijan yet.' The house of Marijan, the traditional spiritual keeper of the mountain, is about 4km from the peak, in Sleman district.

'There are likely to be more victims as the terrain is difficult, roads are damaged and trees uprooted, it's dark and the condition of the volcano is still unstable,' Mr Taufiq added.

13 dead as Merapi erupts