JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia has downgraded the alert level at its most volatile volcano but is still advising villagers to stay 2.5 kilometres away.

Mount Merapi on Java island has been at the highest alert level since Oct. 25 during eruptions that have killed 353 people.

The volcano is still blowing white smoke high into the sky, but state volcanologist Surono said the threat of searing gas clouds appears to have passed for now so authorities on Friday dropped the alert status to the second-highest level.

Surono says villagers living on Merapi's fertile slopes are still advised to stay 2.5 kilometres from the crater's mouth.

Merapi is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which straddles a series of fault lines.