Death toll from Indonesia’s volcano eruption climbs to 34

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Search and rescue operations are still on to find 16 people missing after the eruption of Mount Semeru in Java.

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The death toll from the erupting of the tallest volcano on Indonesia’s Java island on Saturday has risen to at least 34 and rescue operations are still underway, local officials said.

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Mount Semeru in the Lumajang district of East Java province spewed thick columns of ash more than 12,000 meters (40,000 ft) into the sky, with searing gas and lava flowing downward after a sudden eruption.

The disaster filled entire streets with mud and ash, swallowing homes and vehicles in many villages.

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So far 34 people have died and 16 are being searched. [for]The death toll had earlier risen to 14, Wayan Suytna, the head of the local search and rescue agency, told state media on Tuesday. He said around 3,700 people have been evacuated from the affected area.

Students pray for victims of the Semeru mountain explosion at a school in Kediri, East Java [Prasetia Fauzan/Antara Foto via Reuters]

Rescuers have been battling dangerous conditions since the eruption, searching for survivors and bodies in the debris of the volcano, which has destroyed buildings and destroyed vehicles. The search team deployed dogs on Tuesday to aid in the operation.

Mount Semeru has been active since Saturday, with small eruptions keeping emergency workers and residents ashore. On Tuesday, there were three small explosions, each spreading about a kilometer (3,300 feet) of ash, officials said.

Officials have advised locals not to travel within 5 km (3.1 mi) of Semeru’s crater, as the nearby air is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.

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.

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