Rescuers on the treacherous slopes of Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano are grappling with a grim reality as the death toll climbs to 23 following a sudden eruption that caught climbers off guard. Initially, 50 climbers were rescued after the eruption, with 11 confirmed dead.
A subsequent eruption added to the challenges, spewing hot ash 800 meters into the air and temporarily halting search operations. Edi Mardianto, West Sumatra’s deputy police chief, reported that the latest bodies were found near the eruption site, bringing the total confirmed and presumed dead to 23.
Despite battling adverse weather conditions and difficult terrain, rescue teams are persisting in their efforts to locate survivors. The eruption’s aftermath has left areas covered in volcanic debris, prompting recommendations for locals to wear masks and eyeglasses for protection.
Merapi, on the third-highest alert level since 2011, imposes restrictions on approaching within 3 km of the peak, emphasizing the inherent dangers of volcanic activity. The search for the remaining 10 missing climbers resumed amid windows of relative calm, providing rescuers a limited opportunity to navigate the challenging terrain. The eruption on Sunday expelled a 3 km ash cloud, affecting 75 hikers in the area.
While most have been evacuated and received treatment for burns, rescuers are racing against time to locate the missing individuals. Ahmad Rifandi, an official at Merapi’s monitoring station, highlighted ongoing eruptions, indicating the volcano’s continued activity and the unpredictable challenges faced by rescue teams.
Merapi, colloquially known as the “Mountain of Fire,” has a history of sudden eruptions, making it challenging to predict its volcanic activities accurately. With eruptions not linked to deep magma movements, which typically trigger seismic monitors, the volcano poses a unique danger.
The 1979 eruption of the Merapi claimed 60 lives. As the rescue operations unfold, concerns about climbers possibly exceeding permitted heights and residents in the affected area remain, making the true extent of the disaster difficult to ascertain.