Volcano in Indonesia has covered residential areas with ash

Volcano in Indonesia has covered residential areas with ash

Rescuers in Indonesia are searching for survivors in villages buried by hot ash after the eruption of the Semeru volcano on the island of Java on Saturday. Fourteen people are known to have died and dozens were injured, emergency officials said.

A volunteer in nearby Lumajang district videotaped police and military digging up the bodies of the dead with their bare hands. Houses were buried to the roofs, and cars were completely buried in the ground.

At least 11 villages in Lumajang, East Java, were covered in volcanic ash. At least 56 people were hurt, many with burns, mistaking the hot mud flow for a flood.

“The mud flow took out 10 people,” said Salim, who lives in the village of Kampung Renteng.

“One of them was almost rescued. He was told to run, but he said: “I can’t, who will feed my cows?”

One man looking for survivors said 10 people were missing in his village. Another described what happened.

“The locals thought it was a normal flood. We didn’t know it was hot mud. Suddenly the sky darkened as it rained and hot smoke. Luckily it was raining and we could breathe,” he told AFP.

Some relatives of those killed in Lumajang in East Java say they cannot yet pick up their loved ones because some bodies have not yet been identified.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said the wounded are being treated at various hospitals and medical facilities.

About 1,300 people have been evacuated from the disaster zone so far, and 10 sand mine workers trapped in buildings have been rescued, the agency said. Rescue shelters were equipped with food, masks, tarps and body bags.

Evacuation was hampered by choking smoke, power outages, and downpours during the eruption that turned debris into mud. An important bridge connecting the area to the nearby town of Malang was also destroyed during the eruption.

The head of Indonesia’s Geological Agency said heavy rain that fell on the edge of the crater of the Semeru volcano caused it to partially collapse, triggering the eruption. He said seismicity has not increased, indicating any change in magma flow.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) in Darwin, Australia, said the ash cloud from the eruption appears to have dissipated. VAAC advises the aviation industry on the location and movement of potentially dangerous volcanic ash.

Ash that solidifies on the colder parts of aircraft engines can disrupt airflow, which can cause engines to stop or fail completely. It also impairs visibility for pilots and can affect cabin air quality, making the use of oxygen masks necessary.

The Semeru volcano is in a state of near-constant eruption and regularly throws ash about 4,300 meters high, so Saturday’s eruption was “a pretty significant increase in intensity,” Campbell Biggs, a meteorologist with the VAAC, told the BBC.

Semeru volcano rises 3,676 meters above sea level and is among Indonesia’s nearly 130 active volcanoes. It last erupted in December 2020, forcing thousands of residents to take shelter.

Indonesia is located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where continental plates meet, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity.

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