11 bodies recovered after volcanic eruption in Indonesia, 22 climbers still missing

About 75 climbers started their way up the nearly 2,900-metre mountain on Saturday and became stranded

By AP

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Photo: Indonesia rescue team evacuate a victim of the eruption of Mount Marapi in Agam, West Sumatra province, Indonesia, December 4, 2023. Reuters
Photo: Indonesia rescue team evacuate a victim of the eruption of Mount Marapi in Agam, West Sumatra province, Indonesia, December 4, 2023. Reuters

Published: Mon 4 Dec 2023, 8:12 AM

Last updated: Mon 4 Dec 2023, 9:53 PM

The bodies of 11 climbers were recovered Monday after a furious eruption of the Mount Marapi volcano as Indonesian rescuers searched for at least 22 others reportedly missing.

Mount Marapi in Agam district in West Sumatra province spewed thick columns of ash as high as 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) into the sky in a sudden eruption Sunday and hot ash clouds spread several miles (kilometres). Villages and nearby towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris.

About 75 climbers started their way up the nearly 2,900-metre (9,480-foot) mountain on Saturday and became stranded.

Eight of those rescued Sunday were rushed to hospitals with burn wounds and one also had a broken limb, said Hari Agustian, an official at the local Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the provincial capital.

West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency head Abdul Malik said rescuers on Monday morning found 11 bodies of climbers as they searched for those who still missing and rescued three others.

“The evacuation process of the bodies and survivors are still ongoing,” he said, adding that rescuers are still searching for 22 climbers reportedly still missing.

A video on social media on Saturday showed the climbers were evacuated to a shelter, their faces and hair smeared with volcanic dust and rain.

Two climbing routes were closed after the eruption and residents living on the slopes of Marapi were advised to stay 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) from the crater’s mouth because of potential lava, said Ahmad Rifandi, an official with Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center at the Marapi monitoring post.

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 5 to 6 kilometres (3.1 to 3.7 miles) from the peak.

Marapi’s alert level was maintained at the third-highest of four levels, Abdul Muhari said, and 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.

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