Death toll rises to 22 from the eruption of the Semeru volcano on the Indonesian island of Java

Death toll rises to 22 from the eruption of the Semeru volcano on the Indonesian island of Java

There are also 27 missing and more than 2,000 evacuees. A new eruption is hampering rescue efforts

At least 22 people have died and 27 remain missing from the eruption on Saturday of the Semeru volcano on the Indonesian island of Java , according to the balance of victims released Monday by the authorities. 2,004 people have already been evacuated, which are spread over 19 reception centers, said the acting director of the Disaster Data, Information and Communication Center, Abdul Muhari.

The heavy rains and hot air pockets emanating from the volcano, which registered a minor eruption this Monday morning, are making it difficult for search and rescue teams to try to find survivors in the 11 towns settled on the slope of the mountain. The collapse of a bridge that connects the district of Lumajang, ground zero of the tragedy, with the city of Malang is also conditioning the activity.

The office of a sand mine has been buried and 15 people are trapped inside and around, a 65-year-old foreman told the agency France Presse Hasim. “We don’t have any news [about them]. Only one worker has been saved. He is hospitalized with burns ”. Some of the victims were locked in their vehicles as they tried to escape, members of the rescue teams have said.

The head of the local civil protection agency, Wawan Hadi, had previously confirmed that 68 people were treated with burns after the eruption, which has left large areas of the island covered in a thick layer of smoke and ash. Images from the local media show houses that are practically covered.

The authorities have asked the inhabitants of the area not to approach within five kilometers of the crater, due to the harmful potential of the level of ash concentration. Many fled in a hurry on Saturday.

Among the latest victims found are a woman and her daughter whose bodies were found entwined in the rubble of their home, according to the Kompas news portal . The 3,700-meter volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the country and the highest mountain on the island of Java, already erupted in December last year, causing a wave of evacuations similar to the one experienced this end of week Indonesia is situated in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, so it often experiences high seismic activity and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur regularly.

Melissa Galbraith
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