Fourteen are dead and dozens are injured from burns following a yesterday’s volcano eruption on the Indonesian island of Java for the second time in months.
The eruption has sent thousands fleeing and forcing hundreds of families into makeshift shelters as some remain missing.
At least 11 villages of Lumajang district in East Java were coated in volcanic ash which covered houses and vehicles and smothered livestock.
A rescuer walks past a house buried in the ash following the eruption of Mount Semeru in Lumajang district, East Java province, Indonesia
A man inspects a truck buried in the ash. The eruption has sent thousands fleeing and forcing hundreds of families into makeshift shelters as at least seven remain missing
Some 900 evacuees are seeking shelter in mosques, schools and village halls.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said 56 people had been hospitalised, mostly with burns injuries.
He said rescuers were still searching for nine residents of Curah Kobokan village.
President Joko Widodo on Sunday ordered a rapid emergency response to find victims and treat the injured after the scale of the disaster became clear, said state secretary Pratikno, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.
A video taken by a volunteer in the district of Lumajang showed police trying to dig out bodies with their bare hands with military officials, the BBC reported.
Flows of hot gas and lava travelled up to 6.8 miles to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday and three times today with a smaller distance of up to one-and-a-half miles, according to Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Agency.
Authorities warned the thousands of people who fled the volcanic eruption not to return during today’s lull in activity.
But some were desperate to check on livestock and possessions left behind. In several areas, everything – from the thinnest tree branch to couches and chairs inside homes – was caked with ash.
Haryadi Purnomo, of East Java’s search and rescue agency, said: ‘There’s no life there…trees, farms, houses are scorched, everything is covered in heavy grey ash.’
He added that several other areas were virtually untouched.
Ash covers houses and trees on the slopes of Mount Semeru. At least 11 villages of Lumajang district in East Java were coated in volcanic ash
Sumber Wuluh residents carry their livestock to be evacuated after the eruption of Mount Semeru hit the village
Residents fled and many tried to bring their possessions as some carried goats alive in their arms
As many as 10 trapped people were rescued from areas surrounding Lumajang, according to Muhari, as villagers and rescuers worked through the night to find anyone trapped or retrieve bodies.
Local broadcaster Kompas TV reported those rescued were local workers at a sand mining site.
Evacuations were temporarily suspended on Sunday due to hot ash clouds, Indonesia’s Metro TV reported.
There is also a risk of heavy rain causing ash sediment to form a new river of hot lava, the country’s top volcanologist Surono told the station.
Most of those burnt in the immediate aftermath misunderstood the size of the eruption and subsequent lava flow so had stayed in their villages, Lumajang Public Order Agency spokesman Adi Hendro told AFP.
‘They did not have time to run away,’ he said.
At least seven people remain missing after the eruption, Hendro said, including two who authorities believe are still alive.
He said: ‘There were signs they are still alive as there were lights maybe from their cellphones.
‘But we cannot go there as the ground is still very hot. We want to ensure our team’s safety too.’
As many as 10 trapped people were rescued from areas surrounding Lumajang as villagers and rescuers worked through the night to find anyone trapped or retrieve bodies
President Joko Widodo on Sunday ordered a rapid emergency response to find victims and treat the injured
An active volcano has erupted on the Indonesian island of Java for the second time in months
Evacuees take shelter at the local mosque of Sumber Wuluh village, in Lumajang
The eruption eased pressure that had been building under a lava dome perched on the crater.
But experts warned that the dome could collapse further, causing an avalanche of the blistering gas and debris trapped beneath it.
A thunderstorm and days of rain, which eroded and partly collapsed the dome on top of the 12,060-foot Semeru, triggered the eruption, Eko Budi Lelono, who heads the geological survey centre, said.
Officials said earlier they had hoped they could avoid casualties by closely monitoring the volcano.
Lava mixed with debris and heavy rain had already destroyed at least one bridge in Lumajang, preventing rescuers from immediately accessing the area.
But emergency services footage on Sunday showed that the damage goes farther.
The village of Kebon Renteng was seen with roofs of houses protruding from a coat of mud that destroyed them.
Rescue workers dressed in bright orange uniforms worked against a dark-grey backdrop in the village of about 11,000, now a scene of ruin with damaged buildings and fallen trees.
In other areas, distressed villagers desperately tried to salvage their belongings from wrecked homes.
At least 57 people including two pregnant women were injured in the eruption, of whom 41 suffered burns and were hospitalised
Sumber Wuluh village covered with volcanic ash
Mount Semeru’s eruption also affected Sumber Wuluh village
Some held mattresses and furniture on their shoulders while others carried goats alive in their arms.
The rescue teams were using heavy loaders to remove debris and clear roads, Muhari said.
Locals have been advised not to travel within 3.1 miles of Semeru’s crater, as the air around it is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.
Areas affected by the eruption have been coated in ash
Evacuations are underway but were temporarily suspended on Sunday due to hot ash clouds, Indonesia’s Metro TV reported
Indra Wibowo, head of the local disaster agency, told Metro TV: ‘For now, we urge people not to stay because the volcanic ash is still relatively hot.’
Officials have sent aid to shelters, including food, tarpaulins, face masks, and body bags.
The eruption took place at about 2.30pm local time on Saturday.
A rain of volcanic ash from Mt Semeru was reportedly blotting out the sun in two regions yesterday and a monitoring body had issued a warning of an ash cloud rising up to 50,000 ft to airlines.
In other areas, distressed villagers desperately tried to salvage their belongings from wrecked homes
Locals have been advised not to travel within 3.1 miles of Semeru’s crater, as the air around it is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups
Videos shared on social media showed residents screaming as they ran away from the ominous plume and others finding shelter from a rain of falling ash.
In some areas the sky had turned dark and infrastructure has been damaged.
Thoriqul Haq, a local official, told Reuters that the eruption had been a ‘very pressing, rapid condition’.
A road and bridge from the area to the nearby city of Malang had been severed in the aftermath.
Australia’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), which provides advice to the aviation industry, today said the ash had now dissipated around Semeru according to satellite imagery.
On Saturday the VAAC warned that the ash cloud posed hazards for aircraft
Ash spewed by the volcano travelled up to four kilometres away, Indonesia’s geological agency said, reaching as far as the Indian Ocean in the southern part of Java.
Yesterday the VAAC warned that the ash cloud posed hazards for aircraft.
Campbell Biggs, a meteorologist at the centre, on Saturday told the BBC that the ash cloud was higher than the cruising altitude for most aircraft and may cause diversions.
He added it should slowly vanish.
Most planes are likely to try avoid getting caught up in its path as ash that solidifies on the cooler parts of the engine can stall or fail engines if airflow is disrupted.
Pilots’ visibility and the air quality in cabins is also affected.
Social media videos show residents fleeing from the giant ash cloud
Mount Semeru spews hot clouds as seen from Pronojiwo, Lumajang
Lava mixed with debris and heavy rain had already destroyed at least one bridge in Lumajang, preventing rescuers from immediately accessing the area
The centre said the ash was drifting south-west over the Indian ocean after appearing to have detached from the volcano’s summit.
Some 54% of the country’s population live on Java, the country’s most densely populated area.
Mt Semeru, one of Indonesia’s some 130 active volcanoes, regularly spewed up ash up to around 14,100 ft, meaning that yesterday’s eruption was unusual in severity, Mr Biggs also said.
The volcano sits 12,000ft above sea level and last erupted in December 2020. It has remained at its second-highest alert status level since then.
A person swipes ash off a railing following the eruption of Indonesia’s Semeru volcano last December
Villagers resting at a temporary shelter after evacuating their homes when the volcano last erupted in December 2020
Last year it spewed thick columns of ash high into the sky, triggering panic among people living nearby and leaving several villages blanketed with falling ash.
There were no immediate reports of casualties but evacuation was hampered.
The eruption was accompanied by a thunderstorm and rain, which combined with lava and smouldering debris and formed thick mud that destroyed at least one bridge connecting two main villages of Pronojiwo and Candipuro.
The head of Indonesia’s centre for volcanology said it had warned officials on Thursday about increased volcanic activity and said people in the region should be on alert.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.