Death toll from Indonesia volcano eruption rises to 14

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Officials say at least 14 people have been killed and 98 injured in the sudden eruption of Mount Semeru.

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The death toll after the eruption of Indonesia’s Semeru volcano has risen to 14, as rescue teams searched villages covered in molten ash for survivors, officials said.

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In a statement on Sunday, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said two of the 14 people killed in the blast had been identified.

Spokesman Abdul Muhari said at least 98 people, including two pregnant women, were injured, while 902 people were evacuated from villages around Semeru in East Java province.

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According to officials, 10 stranded people were rescued from villages in East Java’s Lumajang district, broadcaster Kompas reported, adding that those rescued were workers at a sand mining site.

The volcano, located on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java, erupted on Saturday, erupting columns of ash more than 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) into the sky, sending gas and lava flowing down its slopes.

Many villages of Lumajang were covered with ashes. Houses and vehicles were submerged, while animals died.

Damaged houses covered with volcanic ash from Mount Semeru in Sumbar Wuluh village. [Umarul Faruq/Antara Foto via Reuters]

According to the head of the Geological Survey Center, Eko Budi Lleno, the sudden eruption was caused by a thunderstorm and days of heavy rain.

He said the rain evaporated and eventually the 3,676 m (12,060 ft) lava dome atop Semeru collapsed.

She said flows of searing gas and lava went up to 800 meters (2,624 feet) into a nearby river at least twice on Saturday.

The BNPB has advised people to stay 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) from the crater’s mouth.

Thorikul Haque, an official in Lumajang district, said “thick columns of ash have turned many villages into darkness” and the evacuation efforts were hampered by power outages in the area.

Haq said debris and lava mixed with rain formed thick mud that destroyed the main bridge as well as a smaller bridge connecting Lumajang and the neighboring district of Malang.

The BNPB said it had sent aid to shelters, including food, tarpaulins, face masks and body bags.

People ride motorbikes on a road covered with volcanic ash after the Semeru volcano erupted in the village of Sumbarvuluh in East Java province, Indonesia, December 4, 2021 [Antara Foto/Hermawan/via Reuters]

Semeru’s alert status remains at its second highest level since its last major eruption in December 2020, which forced thousands to flee and villages covered in ash.

There were no casualties at that time.

On Sunday, some residents who fled to a government shelter near the head office of Lumajang district said officials had not given them any information about the volcano’s movements.

“Suddenly everything turned dark, the bright afternoon turned into night. The sound of thunder and the heat forced us to run towards the mosque,” ​​said Fatma, a resident who is about 5 km (3.1 mi) from the crater Kura had fled ashore from Kobokan. “It was a far stronger eruption than in Jan.”

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.

Trucks covered with volcanic ash pulled from Mount Semeru in the village of Sumbar Wuluh [Zabur Karuru/Antara Foto via Reuters]

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