LUMAJANG, INDONESIA – The death toll following the eruption of the tallest volcano on Indonesia’s most populous Java island has risen to 13, with seven still missing, officials said Sunday due to debris. Smoldering and thick mud hampered search efforts.
Mount Semeru in Lumajang County, East Java Province spewed columns of ash more than 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) thick into the sky, and hot gas and lava flowed down the mountainside following a sudden eruption Saturday caused by heavy rain. cause. Some villages are covered with ashes.
Eko Budi Lelono, head of the geological survey center, said a thunderstorm and multi-day rain, which eroded and eventually collapsed the lava dome atop 3,676 meters (12,060 feet) high Semeru, triggered eruption activity.
He said the outflow of hot gas and lava traveled as much as 800 meters (2,624 feet) to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday. The agency said people should stay 5 kilometers from the crater.
“Thick columns of ash have turned some villages into darkness,” said the head of Lumajang district, Thoriqul Haq. He added that hundreds of people had been moved to temporary shelters or moved to other safe areas, adding that the power outage had hampered evacuations.
Debris and lava mixed with rainfall to form a thick layer of mud destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and the neighboring district of Malang, as well as a smaller bridge, Haq said.
Despite an increase in activity since Wednesday, Semeru’s alert status remains at the third highest of four levels since it began erupting last year, and Indonesia’s Volcano Center on Geological Hazard Reduction did not lift this week, Lelono said.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said at least 13 villagers died from severe burns and 57 were hospitalized, including 16 in critical condition with burn injuries. He said rescuers were still searching for seven residents and sand miners along the river in Curah Kobokan village, who were reported missing.
Entire houses in the village were damaged by volcanic debris and more than 900 people had to flee to temporary government shelters, Muhari said.
Liswanto, the head of Semeru’s watchdog, said his office has informed the community and miners that hot ash could fall from the Semeru crater at any time, after the sensors saw increased activity over the past week.
However, some residents who ran to government shelters near the Lumajang district headquarters said authorities had not conveyed any information to them about the volcano’s activity.
Fatmah, a resident who ran to shelter from Curah Kobokan, about 5km from the crater, said: “Suddenly everything went dark, the morning morning turned into night. The rumbling and the heat forced them. I have to run to the mosque.” “It was a much stronger eruption than it was in January.”
Transport Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati said her office had issued a notice Saturday to all airlines to avoid routes near the volcano. She said flight operations were continuing as scheduled and authorities would continue to monitor the situation. The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center said the spread of volcanic ash from Mount Semeru was detected to the southwest moving at 50 knots.
Television reports showed people screaming and running under a huge cloud of ash, their faces drenched from rain mixed with volcanic dust. The last time Semeru erupted, in January, there were no casualties.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a series of horseshoe-shaped fault lines.