SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia — Indonesia’s Mt. Semeru volcano continued to spew hot clouds of ash on Monday, days after a powerful eruption killed 15 people and left dozens more missing.
The tallest mountain on the island of Java erupted dramatically on Saturday, shooting a towering column of ash into the sky that blanketed surrounding villages.
Aerial footage of the affected areas showed roofs jutting out of an ashen landscape, while on the ground, military officers, police and residents dug through mud with their hands to extricate victims.
The death toll rose to 15 by Monday, while 27 people remain missing, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said in a statement.
The volcano erupted again on Monday morning, Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) confirmed via its Twitter account, warning of continued seismic activity.
“Semeru is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Before and after the Dec. 4 eruption, it will continue to be active,” Liswanto, the head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory told Reuters.
As some anxious residents returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock, Liswanto urged people to keep a safe distance.
“People need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he added.
In the Sumberwuluh area, rescue teams battled poor weather to retrieve victims from the rubble.
“We were looking for nine people reported missing in this village and thank God we found [the bodies of] three victims,” said Estianto Hendriantono, chief of the local search and rescue effort. “The challenge for the evacuation was that they were trapped under logs and rocks, and the soil was still hot.”
On Facebook, people have posted photos of their missing relatives, with public pleas for any information about their whereabouts.
Complicating logistics and rescue efforts, lava flows from Saturday’s eruption destroyed a bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang with the city of Malang.
Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,700 people who have been displaced.
A trauma healing team to work with children affected by the eruption has been dispatched, CNN Indonesia reported, while hundreds of aid packages, including rice, blankets and clothes and other basic necessities have been sent to the area.
Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country that straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity that rests atop multiple tectonic plates. — Reuters