Indonesian rescuers have found the bodies of 11 climbers after the eruption of the Mount Marapi volcano in West Sumatra.
A rescue official said three people were found alive on the volcano and at least 12 climbers were still missing. Another official put the number of missing at 22.
Local rescue agency spokesperson Jodi Haryawan said the rescue efforts had been affected by sporadic eruptions but the search was still going despite the risks. “Once it was safer they continued the search. So the search was not halted,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Forty-nine climbers were evacuated from the area earlier on Monday and many were being treated for burns, he said.
“There are 26 people who have not been evacuated, we have found 14 of them, three were found alive and 11 were found dead,” said Abdul Malik, head of Padang Search and Rescue Agency, speaking on Sunday.
He said there were a total of 75 hikers on the mountain from Saturday.
The volcano erupted with white and grey ash plumes on Sunday, stranding and injuring climbers and spreading volcanic ash over several villages.
Zhafirah Zahrim Febrina, one of the rescued hikers, is now in a nearby hospital with her father and uncle after being trapped on the mountain on a hiking trip with 18 school friends, AFP reported.
“She is going through a tremendous trauma,” said her mother Rani Radelani, 39. “She is affected psychologically because she saw her burns, and she also had to endure the pain all night.”
Two climbing routes were closed after the eruption and residents living on the slopes of Marapi were advised to stay 3km (1.8 miles) from the crater’s mouth because of potential lava, said Ahmad Rifandi, an official with Indonesia’s volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center at the Marapi monitoring post.
However, about 75 climbers had started their way up the nearly 2,900-metre (9,480ft) mountain on Saturday. More than 160 personnel, including police and soldiers, were deployed to search for them, said Hari Agustian, an official at the local Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra province.
It was reported earlier that eight of those rescued were taken to hospital with burns and one had a broken limb, he said.
A video on social media showed the climbers being evacuated, their faces and hair smeared with volcanic dust and rain.
“Some suffered from burns because it was very hot, and they have been taken to the hospital,” Rudy Rinaldi, head of the West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency told AFP. “Those who are injured were the ones who got closer to the crater.”
Rescue teams were working through the night to help bring mountaineers down to safety, West Sumatra’s natural resources conservation agency said.
The eruption sent ash plumes more than 3,000 metres into the air. Falling ash blanketted several villages and blocked sunlight, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said. Authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear eyeglasses to protect them from volcanic ash, he said.
About 1,400 people live on Marapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages are five to six kilometres from the peak.
Marapi’s alert level was maintained at the third-highest of four levels, Abdul Muhari said, and confirmed that authorities had been closely monitoring the volcano after sensors picked up increasing activity in recent weeks.
Marapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
This article was amended on 4 December 2023. An earlier version misnamed Mount Marapi, which is on the island of Sumatra, as “Mount Merapi”, which is on the island of Java, and which has not erupted.
With Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse