Over the weekend, approximately 50 individuals were successfully rescued from the hazardous slopes of Indonesia’s Mount Marapi volcano following a surprise eruption. However, the fate of potential survivors remains unclear. Rescue operations faced challenges due to bad weather, difficult terrain, and winds carrying heat from ongoing eruptions.
Authorities reported that the eruption claimed the lives of at least 22 climbers, with 11 bodies discovered on Tuesday, in addition to the initial 11 confirmed dead. One person is still missing and presumed dead, given their proximity to the eruption site. The recovered bodies will undergo identification at a local hospital.
The search and rescue efforts were temporarily hampered on Monday when a new eruption ejected hot ash up to 800 meters into the air. Despite the obstacles, rescuers evacuated more than 50 climbers, navigating the perilous conditions to bring them to safety.
Above-normal volcanic activity
Mount Marapi had been under the third-highest alert level since 2011, indicating above-normal volcanic activity. Climbers were prohibited within three kilometers of the peak, and registration at command posts or online was mandatory. However, local officials acknowledged the possibility of individuals exceeding these restrictions, complicating efforts to determine the exact number of people stranded.
Marapi, known for sudden and difficult-to-detect eruptions, spewed thick ash columns up to 3,000 meters high during the initial eruption. The ash clouds spread for several kilometers, affecting nearby villages and towns. Residents were advised to wear masks and eyeglasses to protect themselves from the volcanic debris.
The volcano has been active since a non-fatal eruption in January. Situated in Indonesia, a country with over 120 active volcanoes prone to seismic activity, Marapi’s eruptions are a consequence of its location within the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” characterized by an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. Authorities continue to monitor the situation as the community grapples with the aftermath of this tragic event.