HARGOBINANGUN (Indonesia) - INDONESIA'S Mount Merapi volcano erupted violently early on Saturday, spreading panic and raining ash more than 12km away, witnesses said.

People living near the volcano in Central Java province said the explosion at around 1am (1800 GMT Friday, 12am Singapore time) was louder and stronger than the eruptions that killed 34 people on Tuesday.

Soldiers and police posted nearest the volcano were seen fleeing along with hundreds of ordinary people, who quickly clogged roads with cars and motorcycles as black soot fell across a vast area.

'My neighbours told me to leave and my village is already empty - everyone has fled,' said 42-year-old resident Mukinem, who was heading away from the volcano on a motorcycle with her husband and two young children.'I heard several sounds like thunder. I was so scared I was shaking.'

A resident of Hargobinangun just outside the 10km exclusion zone established by the government said the eruption was 'more than twice as big as the first eruption on Tuesday'.

But a government volcanologist said the impact was not as great as that of the earlier deadly eruption. 'It was big but not as big as the one on Tuesday in terms of the volume of volcanic material which was thrown out,' he said.

At least two people were taken to hospital with injuries from breathing in the hot ash, witnesses said.

Merapi volcano erupts again