Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Rescue workers in Indonesia continue digging through thick layers of hot ash and debris to find survivors from one volcanic eruptions that left more than a dozen people dead and thousands displaced in the country’s eastern Java province, even as the volcano continues to erupt with ash.

Mount Semeru, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Saturday, firing smoldering hot ash and volcanic gas into the sky, darkening skies over villages in eastern Java’s Lumajang district.

At least 15 people have been killed and 27 others missing, according to the Command Post for the Emergency Response of Mount Semeru.

Villagers save what they can after Mount Semeru volcano erupted in Indonesia
Villagers save what they can from their damaged home in the village of Sumber Wuluh in Lumajang. (June Kriswanto / AFP / Getty Images)

More than 1,700 people had been evacuated across 19 makeshift centers, the group said in a statement.

Nearly 3,000 houses and 38 schools have been damaged by the waste, the statement said.

The eruption also destroyed a bridge connecting Lumajang with the nearby Malang district, blocking access from the main road and hampering rescue efforts, it added.

Maulana Ardiansyah, a volunteer from Bazna’s Search and Rescue team, told CNN that the group found three bodies – a man, a woman and a child – submerged in cold lava in the village of Kampung Renteng yesterday morning.

A man cycles past damaged homes in the village of Sumber Wuluh in Lumajang, after the volcano Mount Semeru erupted in Indonesia
A man rides a bicycle past damaged homes in the village of Sumber Wuluh in Lumajang. (June Kriswanto / AFP / Getty Images)

The evacuees included hundreds of villagers living near a dam that burst due to cold lava and heavy rain, search and rescue operations manager I Wayan Suyatna told CNN.

He added that the search was forced to stop twice due to pyroclastic clouds – a mixture of ash, rock and volcanic gases that can be much more dangerous than lava.

“Hot volcanic cloud is dangerous for the team’s safety,” said Mr. Suyatna.

“The weather here is also really bad. (It’s) dark and rainy.”

Damage to Mount Semeru, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, erupted
Monday’s search operation was forced to stop twice due to pyroclastic clouds – a mixture of ash, rock and volcanic gases. (Adek Berry / AFP / Getty Images)

Video shared on Monday by Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) shows garbage-filled mud stretching for miles around the volcano. Villages are completely abandoned and vehicles remain submerged under the mud, while thousands of trees are covered with a sheet of ash dust.

Local resident Hosniya, 31, told Reuters the outbreak surprised her.

“At first I thought it was a bomb blast … suddenly it was all dark, as if it was going to destroy the earth,” she said.

The Semeru volcano erupts in Indonesia
Mount Semeru erupted on Saturday, firing smoldering hot ash and volcanic gas into the air. (Trisnadi / AP)

Hosniya was evacuated with his family, but they were unable to take anything with them other than their official papers, Reuters reported.

In the village of Sumberwuluh, where 16 houses were buried under ashes, residents ran to evacuate their livestock on trucks Sunday.

The roofs of several of the village houses had collapsed, leaving bricks and metal rods bare.

Aftermath of the eruption could also be felt among some residents of the villages of Kobokan and Kanjar late Sunday.

They were later evacuated to a shelter in a nearby district.

The Indonesian government said it was preparing a relocation process for villagers who lost their homes in the outbreak.

BNPB said it will provide them with financial support before the government can move them.

Members of a search and rescue team carry a villager during an operation in the village of Sumberwuluh after the volcano Mount Semeru erupted in Indonesia
Members of a search and rescue team are carrying a Mount Semeru villager in an eruption. (Adek BerryAFP / Getty Images)

Indonesia sits between two continental plates on what is known as the Ring of Fire, a band around the Pacific basin that leads to high levels of tectonic and volcanic activity.

In January, Mount Merapi on the island of Java erupted and shot up a cloud of ash, prompting authorities to warn of the risk of lava reaching roads.

The unstoppable wall of burning stones that buries a Spanish island

The volcano erupted violently in 2010, killing more than 350 people.

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