Indonesia: 13 dead and 7 still missing after volcano spews clouds of ash into sky

4 December 2021, 15:46 | Updated: 5 December 2021, 07:28

Video image released by Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) shows Mount Semeru spewing volcanic materials in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia.
Video image released by Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) shows Mount Semeru spewing volcanic materials in Lumajang, East Java, Indonesia. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The death toll following the eruption of the highest volcano on Indonesia's most densely populated island of Java has risen to 13, with seven people still missing, officials said as smouldering debris and thick mud hampered search efforts.

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Mount Semeruc's eruption has triggered panic on the densely populated island and several villages have been blanketed with falling ash.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said at least 13 villagers died from severe burns and 57 were taken to hospital, including 16 in critical condition with burn injuries.

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, as well as hampering the evacuation, Lumajang district head Thoriqul Haq told TVOne.

"Thick columns of ash have turned several villages to darkness," Haq said, adding that several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left for other safe areas.

Television reports showed people running in panic under a huge ash cloud, their faces wet from rain mixed with volcanic dust.

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The volcano erupted at approximately 14:30 local time.

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The 3,676-metre (12,060ft) volcano last erupted in January, with no casualties.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.

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