ITV News correspondent Lewis Warner has the latest developments on the Mount Semeru volcano eruption, which has prompted a desperate search for survivors
The number of deaths following the eruption of the highest volcano in IndonesiaThe most densely populated island in Java has grown to 14, according to reports.
Mount Semeru, in Lumajang District, East Java Province, spat thick columns of ash more than 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) into the sky, and burning gas and lava flowed on its slopes after a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rains on Saturday.
Several villages were covered with falling ash.
“There is no life there… the trees, the farms, the houses are burnt down, everything is covered with thick gray ash,” said Haryadi Purnomo of the East Java Search and Rescue Agency.
Search and rescue efforts were temporarily suspended Sunday afternoon over fears that hot ash and debris could fall from the crater due to heavy rains.
A thunderstorm and rainy days, which eroded and ultimately collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) Semeru, triggered the eruption, said Eko Budi Lelono, who runs the center. geological study.
He said streams of scorching gas and lava had traveled up to 800 meters (2,624 feet) to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday.
People were urged to stay 5.1 miles from the mouth of the crater, the agency said.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said 56 people had been hospitalized, most of them with burns.
Several hundred people were moved to temporary shelters or left in other safe areas, he said, adding that a power outage hampered the evacuation.
Debris and lava mixed with the precipitation formed thick mud that destroyed the main bridge connecting Lumajang and neighboring Malang District, as well as a smaller bridge, officials said.
Despite an increase in activity since Wednesday, Semeru’s alert status has remained at the third-highest of four levels since its eruption began last year, and the Indonesian Volcanology Center for Mitigation geological hazards did not pick it up this week, Lelono said.
Watch people flee for their lives as the volcano begins to spew ash and smoke
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said at least 13 villagers died from severe burns and 57 were taken to hospital, 16 of them in critical condition with severe burns. burns.
The Associated Press reported that the death toll now stands at 14.
Mr Muhari said rescuers were still looking for seven residents and sand miners along a river in the village of Curah Kobokan who were missing.
Entire houses in the village were damaged by volcanic debris and more than 900 people fled to temporary government shelters, he said.
Liswanto, the head of the Semeru monitoring station, said his office informed the community and miners that hot ash could fall from Semeru Crater at any time, after sensors detected increased activity during the last week.
But some residents who fled to a government shelter near the Lumajang district headquarters said authorities had not provided them with any information about the volcano’s activities.
“Suddenly everything turned dark, the bright afternoon turned into night. A roar and heat forced us to run towards the mosque, ”said Fatmah, a resident who fled to the shelter of Curah Kobokan, about five kilometers from the crater.
“It was a much stronger eruption than in January. “
Ministry of Transport spokeswoman Adita Irawati said her office issued a notice on Saturday urging all airlines to avoid roads near the volcano.
The last Semeru eruption in January claimed no casualties.
Indonesia, an archipelago of over 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity as it lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a series of fault lines shaped like a Horseshoe.