11 hikers dead after Indonesia volcano erupts, survivors found

Bomi Yoon

Volcanic ash spews from Mount Marapi during an eruption as seen from Tanah Datar in West Sumatra, Dec. 3. AFP-Yonhap

At least 11 hikers were found dead and three others were rescued by search teams that worked through the night to find people missing after the eruption of a volcano in western Indonesia, officials said Monday.

Mount Marapi on the island of Sumatra, with a peak of 2,891 (9,484 feet) meters erupted on Sunday, spewing an ash tower 3,000 meters into the sky that rained volcanic debris onto nearby villages.

Officials from local and national agencies revised up the number of hikers on the mountain over the weekend to 75, but search teams found the 11 dead near the crater on Monday morning.

“There are 26 people who have not been evacuated, we have found 14 of them, three were found alive and 11 were found dead,” said Abdul Malik, head of Padang Search and Rescue Agency, speaking a day after the eruption.

Twelve were still missing and 49 had descended the mountain, some who were taken to hospital, he said.

The three survivors were found near the crater and “their condition was weak, and some had burns,” said the official.

Rescue workers were taking turns carrying the dead down the mountain due to the arduous terrain.

A clip shared with AFP by rescue teams at the scene showed an ambulance blaring its sirens, rushing an evacuated climber from the scene with burns.

In another clip, a rescue worker with a flashlight strapped to his head piggybacks a hiker who moans in pain and says “God is great” as she is led to safety in the darkness of night.

The eruption was ongoing, which was preventing air evacuations by helicopter, Malik said.

“Visually, until this morning, smokes are still billowing from the top. Visually, everything still looks grey,” he said.

Officials look on as volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Marapi on Sumatra island covers the village of Nagari Lasi in Agam Regency, Dec. 3. Courtesy of Indonesia’s National Disaster Agency

Rudy Rinaldi, head of the West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency told AFP some of the rescued hikers needed medical treatment because of their proximity to the eruption.

“Some suffered from burns because it was very hot, and they have been taken to the hospital,” he said.

“Those who are injured were the ones who got closer to the crater.”

According to a national search and rescue agency, or Basarnas, list seen by AFP of those found, at least eight people suffered burns, one had burns and a fracture and another had a head wound.

Ahmad Rifandi, an official at the Mount Marapi monitoring station, told AFP that ash rain was observed after the eruption.

“It has reached to Bukittinggi city,” he said Sunday, referring to the third-largest city in West Sumatra that has a population of more than 100,000.

Local disaster agency official Ade Setiawan said in a statement residents in local villages were “given masks and reminded to stay inside their houses”.

Marapi is on the second alert level of Indonesia’s four-step system and authorities have imposed a three-kilometre exclusion zone around its crater.

The Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

The Southeast Asian country has nearly 130 active volcanoes. (AFP)

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