The death toll from a volcanic eruption in Indonesia has risen to 22 after nine more bodies were discovered – with officials blaming hikers for getting too close to the crater.
Mount Marapi on the island of Sumatra spewed an ash tower 9,800 feet – taller than the volcano itself – into the sky on Sunday.
Hundreds of rescuers have worked for days to find the missing hikers, which numbered 10 on Tuesday before the local rescue agency’s announcement that most had been found, bringing the days-long search closer to an end.
‘Nine of 10 missing victims were found dead this afternoon and at the moment, they are being evacuated. There is one remaining victim currently in the search, Abdul Malik, head of Padang Search and Rescue Agency said.
The head of Indonesia’s volcanology agency, Hendra Gunawan, said Marapi has been at the second level of a four-tier alert system since 2011, and a three kilometre (1.86 mile) exclusion zone had been imposed around its crater.
He appeared to blame hikers on Monday for going too close to the crater, saying the agency recommended no human activities in that zone, and emphasised that ‘severe impacts’ were reported for victims within one to 1.5 kilometres from the crater.
Mount Marapi on the island of Sumatra spewed an ash tower 9,800 feet – taller than the volcano itself
The head of Indonesia’s volcanology agency, Hendra Gunawan, He appeared to blame hikers on Monday for going too close to the crater, saying the agency recommended no human activities in that zone
Those killed were severely burned and forensic workers were preparing to identify the dead by dental and fingerprint records, or based on marks on their bodies, local police said
Relatives of hikers who are missing or dead were still waiting for updates at the information centre at the base of the mountain
Officials said the hikers had registered through an online booking system, but others may have been on illegal mountain routes.
Those killed were severely burned and forensic workers were preparing to identify the dead by dental and fingerprint records, or based on marks on their bodies, said Eka Purnamasari, an official from the West Sumatra police medical unit.
The search would last seven days until all of the hikers were found, rescue officials said.
The dead who have been found so far were carried down the mountain in bodybags over several days, rescue officials said.
Images shared by Basarnas showed a rescue team of six in orange jackets and hard hats carrying a body down the side of the volcano on Tuesday.
Some of the 75 hikers on the mountain during the eruption were found alive and carried down, with multiple suffering burns and fractures.
One survivor spoke of his panic after the eruption began.
‘I was zig-zagging, going down around 30 to 40 metres’ to a trekking post, Ridho, 22, said from a bed in a nearby hospital.
‘The eruption sounded loud, I took a look behind then immediately ran away as everyone did. Some jumped and fell. I took cover behind the rocks, there were no trees there.’
The volcano was still erupting as of midday on Tuesday, according to officials, slowing the rescue efforts of more than 200 personnel.
Mount Marapi spews volcanic ash from its crater in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023
This handout photo taken on December 4, 2023 and released on December 5, 2023 by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers evacuating one of the victims from the slopes of Mount Marapi in West Sumatra
Rescuers prepare to evacuate a survivor of the Mount Merapi eruption in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia, 04 December 2023
Rescuers carry a climber injured in the eruption of Mount Marapi in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023
Locals shared fearful messages as ash clouds filled the sky in Indonesia over the weekend
Mount Marapi in Agam district in West Sumatra province spewed thick columns of ash as high as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) into the sky in a sudden eruption Sunday and hot ash clouds spread several miles
Rescuers transfer the injured in West Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 4, 2023
Later in the day, rainfall and volcanic smoke were still blocking a view of Marapi, according to an AFP journalist.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, where tectonic plates collide.
Mount Marapi, which means ‘Mountain of Fire’, is the most active volcano on Sumatra island and one of the archipelago’s nearly 130 active volcanoes.
Locals described the carnage when the volcano burst to life on Sunday.
‘The villagers were shocked because of the thundering noise, then there was a jolt and also a boom,’ said Adrizal, head of local village Nagari Lasi.
‘The villagers were very traumatised by the eruption.’
Their relatives were still waiting for updates at the information centre at the base of the mountain.
‘I will stay here until I hear some news,’ said Dasman, father of missing hiker Zakir Habibi, who made a two-hour drive from Padang city to the base of the mountain in hope of good news.
‘I still hope my son survives,’ he said on Monday.
A total of 75 hikers were listed by officials as hiking on the mountain since Saturday, with some of the 49 initially accounted for suffering burns and fractures.
The search will carry on for seven days, rescue officials said.
The Marapi volcano erupted on Sunday, leaving nearly 75 hikers stranded. There are 26 people who have not been evacuated, 11 of which were found dead and 12 are still missing
Rescue teams evacuate a victim of the eruption of Mount Marapi. Three people found by rescuers were alive
Rescuers talk to a man affected by Monday’s volcano eruption in Marapi, Indonesia
‘Some suffered from burns because it was very hot, and they have been taken to the hospital,’ Rudy Rinaldi, head of the West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency said to AFP.
‘Those who are injured were the ones who got closer to the crater.’
Falling ash blanketed several villages and blocked sunlight, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said.
Authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear eyeglasses to protect them from volcanic ash, he said.
About 1,400 people live on Marapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages about 3.1 to 3.7 miles from the peak.
Shocking footage showed one lucky survivor caked in ash at the bottom of the volcano.
The woman, named as ‘Zafira’, appeared to be filming herself at the base with thick ash and dirt in her face, on her clothes and in her hair.
‘Mum, help Ife,’ she said, referring to herself by a family nickname. ‘This is Ife’s situation right now.’
The young woman is now in a nearby hospital with her father and uncle after being trapped on the mountain on a hiking trip with 18 school friends.
‘She is going through a tremendous trauma,’ said her mother Rani Radelani, 39.
‘She is affected psychologically because she saw her burns, and she also had to endure the pain all night.’
One lucky survivor was pictured at the base of the volcano following the eruption
The eruption sent ash plumes nearly 10,000 feet into the air and hot ash clouds spread several miles
Marapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties. It is located on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’
Authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear eyeglasses to protect them from volcanic ash
Marapi’s alert level was maintained at the third-highest of four levels, Abdul Muhari said.
He confirmed that authorities had been closely monitoring the volcano after sensors picked up increasing activity in recent weeks.
Marapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties.
It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.