Search and rescue efforts after the eruption of Indonesia’s Semeru volcano have been suspended due to poor weather, as officials monitoring the mountain urged caution following the weekend’s deadly eruption.
Semeru, in the east of Java island, sent towering columns of ash and smoke into the air on Sunday, plunging nearby villages into darkness and killing 14 people. Dozens more were injured. Officials from the Indonesian disaster agency surveyed the affected area by helicopter on Monday morning, sharing images on Twitter that showed once-verdant fields submerged beneath the ash. On the ground military officers, police and residents dug through the mud with their hands to try and extricate victims.
The head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, who is identified as, Liswanto, warned people to keep a safe distance from the mountain, amid reports anxious residents had returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock. “The status of Mount Semeru is still at level 2, which means at this level, people need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he said.
More than 50 people had suffered injuries during the incident, mostly burns. Lava flows also destroyed a bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang with the city of Malang. In the Sumberwuluh area, where two trucks lay half-buried by volcanic ash, recovery efforts came to an abrupt halt because of strong winds, a witness said, according to the Reuters news agency. Dewa Arya, from the search and rescue agency, said Monday his team was working to retrieve a family of five, but their efforts had been temporarily thwarted by bad weather.