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At least 39 killed, 12 missing and 57 injured after massive eruption at Semeru volcano, Indonesia

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At least 39 people have been killed, 12 are missing and 57 others have been injured after powerful eruption of Semeru volcano in the Indonesian province of East Java on Saturday, December 4, 2021. Nearly 3 000 houses and 38 schools were damaged.

Saturday’s eruption produced deadly pyroclastic flows and lahars, ejected volcanic ash up to 15.2 km (50 000 feet) above sea level, and completely blocked out the Sun over the affected region.

The eruption caught locals by surprise and send thousands of them fleeing its path of destruction and forcing hundreds of families into makeshift shelters.1

Homes and livestock in at least 11 villages of Lumajang district were coated in volcanic ash.

The eruption claimed the lives of at least 13 people and left 57 others injured, mostly with burns, authorities said shortly after the eruption. At least seven people remain missing, including two who authorities believe are still alive, Lumajang Public Order Agency spokesman Adi Hendro told AFP.2

“There were signs they are still alive as there were lights maybe from their cellphones,” he said. “But we cannot go there as the ground is still very hot.”

Lava mixed with debris and heavy rain had already destroyed at least one bridge in Lumajang, preventing rescuers from immediately accessing the area.

But emergency services footage on Sunday showed a desolate scene in the village of Kampung Renteng with rescue workers toiling surrounded by buckled buildings and fallen trees.

“There were 10 people carried away by the mudflow,” said a resident of Kampung Renteng. “One of them was almost saved. He was told to run away but said ‘I can’t, who will feed my cows?'”

Lahars reached and destroyed the village of Lumajhang, located almost 30 km (18 miles) from the volcano.

 

 

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said 56 people had been hospitalized, mostly with burns. He said rescuers were still searching for 27 villagers reported missing.

Nearly 3 000 houses and 38 schools were damaged, Muhari said.3

The eruption took place just two days after a high-level eruption at Sangay volcano, Ecuador. According to the Washington VAAC, volcanic ash rose up to possibly 15.2 km (50 000 feet) above sea level.4

Update

Wednesday, December 8

The death toll rose to 39 on Wednesday, December 8, up from 34 on Tuesday.

12 others still remain missing.

4 000 people are still living in temporary shelters after heavy ash blanketed their villages.

Geological summary

Semeru, the highest volcano on Java, and one of its most active, lies at the southern end of a volcanic massif extending north to the Tengger caldera. The steep-sided volcano, also referred to as Mahameru (Great Mountain), rises above coastal plains to the south.

Gunung Semeru was constructed south of the overlapping Ajek-ajek and Jambangan calderas.

A line of lake-filled maars was constructed along a N-S trend cutting through the summit, and cinder cones and lava domes occupy the eastern and NE flanks. Summit topography is complicated by the shifting of craters from NW to SE.

Frequent 19th and 20th-century eruptions were dominated by small-to-moderate explosions from the summit crater, with occasional lava flows and larger explosive eruptions accompanied by pyroclastic flows that have reached the lower flanks of the volcano.

This volcano is located within the Bromo Tengger Semeru-Arjuno, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve property.5

References:

1 Semeru volcano eruption kills 13, dozens injured – The Jakarta Post

2 Indonesia volcano eruption death toll rises to 13 – AFP

3 27 still missing after Indonesia volcanic eruption kills 15 – AP

4 Major explosive event at Sangay volcano, ash to possibly 15.2 km (50 000 feet) a.s.l., Ecuador – The Watchers

5 Semeru – Geological summary – GVP

Featured image credit: PRB Indonesia BNPB (Disaster Risk Reduction)

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