Indonesian rescuers excavate volcanic ash after 14 deaths

Lu Ma Jiang, Indonesia (AP) – One day after the highest volcano on the island of Java erupted violently, rescuers were screening survivors from smoldering debris and thick mud, killing at least 14 people with hot gas and volcanic ash.

On Saturday, heavy rain triggered a sudden eruption. Mount Semeru in Lumajang District, East Java, sprayed a thick column of volcanic ash over 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) into the sky. Villages and nearby towns were covered, and several small villages were buried in large amounts of mud formed by volcanic debris.

Authorities warned thousands of people fleeing the volcano’s anger not to return during Sunday’s calm period of activity. But some people desperately inspect the livestock and property left behind. In several areas, everything—from the thinnest branches to the sofas and chairs in the house—is covered in ashes.

“There is no life there… the trees, farms, houses are burnt, everything is covered in thick ashes,” said Haryadi Purnomo of the East Java Search and Rescue Agency. He said that several other areas were hardly affected.

On Sunday afternoon, search and rescue work was temporarily suspended because of concerns that heavy rain would cause hot ash and debris to pour down from the crater. On Saturday, a stream of mud destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and the neighboring Malang area, as well as a smaller bridge.

The eruption relieved the pressure built up under the lava dome that perched on the crater. But experts warn that the dome may collapse further, causing an avalanche of hot gas and debris trapped below it.

Eko Budi Lelono, head of the Geological Survey Center, said that a thunderstorm and consecutive days of rain eroded the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) dome on top of Semeru and partially collapsed, causing Volcano eruption.

Semeru, a conical stratovolcano, is also called Mahameru, which means “big mountain” in Sanskrit. In the past 200 years, it has erupted many times.Nevertheless, like other volcanoes-it is one of 129 volcanoes of concern Indonesia, The world’s largest archipelago-more than 62,000 people call the fertile slopes of Sumi their home. It last erupted in January and caused no casualties.

IndonesiaThis archipelago with a population of more than 270 million is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, which is a horseshoe-shaped fault line. Currently, 54% of the country’s population lives in Java, the most densely populated area of ​​the country.

Officials said earlier that they had hoped to avoid casualties by closely monitoring the volcano.

National Disaster Reduction Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said that 56 people have been hospitalized, most of them with burns. He said rescuers are still searching for nine residents of Kulakobokan Village.

Purnomo said that after Saturday’s strong eruption, more than 1,300 villagers poured into temporary emergency shelters, but many others ignored official warnings and chose to stay at home, saying they must take care of livestock and protect property.

He said: “We will do everything we can to evacuate them and prepare trucks and motorcycles for them to escape at any time.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo stated that he has instructed cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to coordinate response measures. The government promised to relocate the residents of the worst-hit villages to safer places within the next six months and provide each family with a monthly compensation of IDR 500,000 (US$34.50) while waiting for a new house.


Karmini reports from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

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