Mount Semeru volcano takes 14 lives so far

In Lumajang, Indonesia, Mount Semeru volcano takes 14 lives so far.

Rescuers have been probing through smoking detritus and a quagmire of mud in the hope of finding survivors a day after the highest volcano on Java island fiercely erupted.

Mount Semeru spewed thick columns of ash more than 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) into the sky in a sudden eruption Saturday December 4 triggered by heavy rains. Villages and nearby towns were blanketed and several hamlets were buried under tons of mud from volcanic debris, something reminiscent of pompei.

“There’s no life there … trees, farms, houses are scorched, everything is covered in heavy gray ash,” said Haryadi Purnomo of East Java’s search and rescue agency. He said that several other areas were virtually untouched.

Search and rescue efforts were temporarily suspended on Sunday afternoon because of fears that the heavy rains could cause an avalanche of hot ash and detritus from the crater. A mudslide destroyed the main connecting bridge between Lumajang and the neighbouring district of Malang

The eruption eased pressure that had been building under a lava dome perched on the crater. But experts warned that the dome could still further collapse, causing an avalanche of the blistering gas and debris trapped beneath it.

According to the head of the geological survey centre, Eko Budi Lelono, “a thunderstorm and days of rain, which eroded and partly collapsed the dome atop the 3,676-metre (12,060-foot) Mount Semeru, triggered the eruption”.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said “56 people had been hospitalized, mostly with burns. Rescuers were still searching for nine residents of Curah Kobokan village”.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he “instructed his Cabinet ministers and disaster and military officials to coordinate the response. The government pledged to relocate residents from hardest-hit villages to safer places in the next six months and to provide 500,000 rupiah ($34.50) per month in compensation for each family while waiting for new houses”.

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