MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia – Eruptions at Indonesia’s deadly volcano appeared to be intensifying today, as clouds of searing gas and ash cascaded down the mountain, torching slope-side homes and triggering a chaotic midnight evacuation.

A rescue worker told TVOne that at least one man was killed in the latest blast and footage showed more than a dozen injured being carried into a hospital on stretchers.

It was not immediately clear why Bronggang, a village 9 miles from the crater and home to around 80 families, had not been evacuated. Witnesses told the station more victims were waiting for help.

Mount Merapi, which means “Fire Mountain,” is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. But even those who have dedicated a lifetime to studying it have been baffled by its erratic behavior since its first Oct. 26 eruption, which has been followed by more than a dozen other powerful blasts and thousands of volcanic tremors.

They’d hoped that would result in a long, slow release of energy. “But we have no idea what to expect now,” said Surono, a state expert on volcanos, adding that he has never seen the needle on Merapi’s seismograph working with such intensity.

The fear is that a new lava dome forming in the mouth of the crater will collapse, triggering a deadly surge of up to 1,800 degree Fahrenheit ash and gas — known to experts as pyroclastic flows — at speeds of 60 mph.

Though more than 75,000 people living along Merapi’s fertile slopes have been evacuated to crowded emergency shelters far from the crater, some have refused to budge while others return to their villages during periods of calm to check on their livestock and homes.

Men with ash-covered faces streamed down the mountain on motorcycles today, followed by truckloads of villagers.

An explosion early Thursday fired white clouds a spectacular 20,000 feet into the sky. Gusts later carried the smoke westward, dusting roof tops, trees and laundry lines up to 150 miles away with thick white powder. Motorists in some cities switched on their headlights.