Death toll rises after Indonesia Mount Marapi eruption

Twenty-two declared dead as more bodies were found by rescue crews on Monday and Tuesday.

Motorists ride past as Mount Marapi spews volcanic materials during its eruption in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia
Motorists ride past as Mount Marapi spews volcanic materials during its eruption in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia [Ardhy Fernando/AP Photo]

Twenty-two climbers have been declared dead since the Mount Marapi volcano erupted in Indonesia on Sunday, after local rescue officials said more bodies had been found.

Nine bodies were found on Tuesday, after two others had been retrieved on Monday, Abdul Malik, the head of Padang search and rescue agency told the AFP news agency.

“They are being evacuated,” he said. “There is one remaining victim currently in search.”

The missing climber was presumed dead because of being very close to the eruption site, Edi Mardianto, the deputy police chief in West Sumatra province, told the Associated Press.

The recovered bodies will be taken to a hospital for identification, he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Malik said 13 people had died and 52 had been evacuated. He said the rescue mission was being hampered by further volcanic activity and bad weather.

Eleven bodies were found on Monday near the crater of Mount Marapi on the island of Sumatra, while several others were found alive and carried down the mountain.

The volcano spewed an ash tower 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) – taller than the volcano itself – into the sky on Sunday. It was the deadliest eruption since 1979, when another one killed 60 people.

‘Mountain of Fire’

Mount Marapi, which means “Mountain of Fire”, is the most active volcano on Sumatra island. Between Sunday and Monday, 46 eruptions had occurred, besides one on Tuesday morning, state-run Antara News reported.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide. The archipelago nation has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

For more than a decade, Indonesia’s volcanology agency had sent monthly letters warning the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and local conservation agency that climbers should keep a safe distance from the volcano’s peak, agency head Hendra Gunawan told Reuters news agency.

“The recommendation was to not climb up to the peak, that no one should go within 3km of the crater,” he told Reuters.

Officials from the volcanology body said it could only issue safety warnings and that it was up to the environment ministry and local authorities to enforce them.

The conservation agency, which is under the ministry, said permits to climb were given after getting the green light from several local agencies, including the West Sumatra provincial government and national disaster agency, as well as the Padang search and rescue agency.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies