Lumajang, Indonesia: Indonesia’s Semeru volcano spewed more ash on Monday, forcing rescuers to suspend the search for survivors, as aerial images showed the extent of the devastation caused by the deadly eruption of the volcano over the weekend.
On Saturday, the largest mountain on the island of Java suddenly became active. Volcanic ash mushrooms spewed into the sky. As thousands of panicked people fled their homes, hot mud poured down. At least 15 people were killed.
Aerial photos showed that the entire street was covered with gray volcanic ash and mud, swallowing many houses and vehicles, including entire trucks.
Due to new volcanic activity on Monday, rescue operations were suspended.
“All evacuation teams have been pulled out… temporarily because there was a small fresh eruption and it could endanger the evacuation teams,” said rescue worker Rizal Purnama.
“The search will continue today once the situation is a bit safer.”
Indonesia’s national disaster agency said 27 people were still missing.
Dangerous smoke continued to erupt from the area covered by volcanic ash, and rescuers wearing hard hats tried to dig in the mud, trying to find the survivors — and the dead bodies.
As the volcanic debris began to harden, their task became more difficult.
“It’s very difficult… with simple tools,” Rizal Purnama said. “It is very likely bodies that have not been found are buried under the hot mudflow.”
Other rescuers helped desperate villagers salvage their belongings from wrecked homes. Some locals lifted mattresses and furniture on their shoulders while others carried goats in their arms.