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News > Indonesia

Indonesia: 15 Dead, 27 Injured After Eruption of Semeru Volcano

  • Residents have been forced to flee in panic as Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts.

    Residents have been forced to flee in panic as Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts. | Photo: Twitter/@AJEnglish

Published 6 December 2021

Indonesia's Mount Semeru spewed more ash Monday, making the search for survivors more difficult as aerial images showed the extent of the devastation unleashed by the volcano's deadly weekend eruption.

On Monday, new volcanic activity hampered search efforts, forcing rescue teams to withdraw from some areas.

"There was a recent small eruption that could endanger evacuation teams," said rescue worker Rizal Purnama.


Semeru Volcano’s Eruption Leaves 41 Injured People in Indonesia

Dangerously thick plumes of smoke continued to emerge from areas covered by volcanic ash, while hard-hatted rescuers tried to dig through the mud to try to find survivors and recover bodies.

Their task became more difficult as the volcanic debris began to harden.

"It's very difficult with simple tools," Rizal Purnama said. "It's very likely that the bodies that have not been found are buried under the hot mudflow."

Rescuers dug up the body of a 13-year-old boy with their bare hands after an improvement in the weather allowed them to resume the search following a violent eruption of the highest volcano on the Indonesian island of Java. At least 15 people were killed by ash and hot gas, and 27 others were injured.

Mount Semeru in East Java's Lumajang district ejected dense plumes of ash that reached 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) high in a sudden eruption worsened by heavy rains on Saturday. Nearby towns and cities were blanketed by tons of volcanic material.

Scorching clouds of gas streamed down the mountain slopes, hitting entire villages and killing or severely burning people in their path.

There were 56 people hospitalized, primarily for burns, said Abdul Muhari, the National Disaster Relief Agency spokesman. Rescuers were still searching for 27 residents still missing. Nearly 3,000 homes and 38 schools were damaged, Muhari said.

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) reported that some 5,200 people had been affected by the Semeru eruption. More than 1,700 have been evacuated to one of the 19 displacement centers set up.

The body of a 13-year-old boy was recovered from the most affected village, Sumberwuluh, where houses were buried up to their roofs. The landscape was dotted with damaged roofs, charred livestock carcasses, and broken chairs covered in gray ash and soot.

Search and rescue efforts were temporarily suspended Sunday afternoon over fears that heavy rain would cause more ash and hot scoria to fall from the crater.

The eruption on the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) mountain relieved pressure built up under the lava dome in the crater. But experts warned that the dome could still trigger an avalanche of scorching gas and scoria trapped beneath.

More than 1,700 residents fled to makeshift emergency shelters after Saturday's powerful eruption, although many ignored official warnings and opted to stay indoors to tend to their livestock and protect their property.

Semeru, also called Mahameru, has erupted many times over the past 200 years. Still, like many of the 129 volcanoes monitored in Indonesia, tens of thousands live on its fertile slopes. Its previous eruption, in January left no casualties.

An archipelago of more than 270 million people, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc made up of faults.

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