Indonesia's Mount Semeru volcano destroys homes; death toll climbs to 34

Updated: Dec 07, 2021, 07:55 PM(IST)

Rescuers have been battling dangerous conditions after Mount Semeru's deadly eruption, searching for survivors and bodies in the volcanic debris

Indonesia's Mount Semeru

The death toll from the eruption of Indonesia's Mount Semeru volcano rose to 34 on Tuesday, the national disaster agency said, as aid was rushed to the affected region.

The biggest mountain on the island of Java on Saturday ejected a mushroom of volcanic ash high into the sky and rained hot mud as thousands of panicked people fled their homes.


Indonesia volcano

The disaster left entire streets filled with mud and ash, swallowing homes and vehicles. Almost 3,700 have been evacuated from the affected area.

Rescuers have been battling dangerous conditions since the deadly weekend eruption, searching for survivors and bodies in the volcanic debris, wrecked buildings and destroyed vehicles.

Mt Semeru has remained active since Saturday, with small eruptions keeping emergency workers and area residents on edge.


Semeru's crater

Search crews deployed dogs on Tuesday to aid in rescue operation. There were three small eruptions on Tuesday, each spewing ash around a kilometre.

Officials have advised locals not to travel within five kilometres of Semeru's crater, as the nearby air is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity, and the country has nearly 130 active volcanoes.


Homes destroyed, streets full of debris

Three days after Indonesia's Mount Semeru erupted and rained burning mud and ash on it, the village closest to the volcano was shrouded in grey -- many of its homes destroyed, streets full of debris and trees felled like matchsticks.

As the hot ash spewed by Semeru on Saturday descended on the village, thatch roofs were ripped off weaker structures. The volcanic debris even tore through corrugated metal with only a handful of homes appeared to have been spared the worst.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said during a trip to the affected area that around 2,000 homes may need to be relocated after the eruption.


Volcanic ash and mud

Aerial photos showed entire streets filled with grey volcanic ash and mud, which had swallowed many homes and vehicles, including whole trucks.

Dangerous thick plumes of smoke continued to emerge from areas blanketed by the volcanic ash, while rescuers in hardhats tried to dig through the mud to try and find survivors and recover bodies.


Ash and Covid challenge

Ash from Semeru travelled up to four kilometres away after the Saturday eruption, Indonesia's geological agency reported. A sand mine company's office in Kampung Renteng village was buried after the eruption, trapping 15 people.

The Red Cross said it had rushed ambulances, medical teams, more than 65,000 surgical masks -- to protect against ash and Covid -- and other emergency supplies to the affected areas.

The ash and mud have also polluted the waterways around Mt Semeru, turning them into streams of dark grey sludge.


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