Death toll rises to 23 after sudden eruption at Marapi volcano, Indonesia

Major eruption at Marapi volcano, December 3, 2023

A major eruption at Mount Marapi in Indonesia on Sunday, December 3, 2023, has led to a confirmed death toll of 23. Rescuers, facing challenging conditions, found additional bodies near the eruption site. The volcano, remaining on high alert since 2011, unexpectedly erupted, impacting climbers and nearby villagers.

The sudden and major eruption of Mount Marapi in Indonesia on December 3, 2023, has resulted in a tragic loss of lives, with the death toll now confirmed at 23. The eruption, which started at 08:00 UTC, was characterized by a high-level volcanic activity that sent ash as high as 15 km (50 000 feet) into the air.

The eruption also produced a pyroclastic flow on the volcano’s northern slope, covering a distance of 3 km (1.8 miles).

This sudden eruption left dozens of hikers stranded and blanketed nearby villages and towns with volcanic debris, prompting authorities to recommend protective measures against the ash.

More than 50 climbers were initially rescued following the eruption, but subsequent eruptions, including one on December 4 that spewed hot ash 800 meters (2 620 feet) high, have hindered rescue efforts. Edi Mardianto, West Sumatra’s deputy police chief, reported the discovery of more bodies near the eruption site. According to Mardianto, 18 victims are presumed dead due to their proximity to the hot gases and ash.

Mount Marapi has been under the third-highest of four alert levels since 2011, as indicated by Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.

This level signifies above-normal volcanic activity and prohibits anyone from coming within 3 km (1.8 miles) of the peak. While climbers were permitted in areas below this danger zone and required to register at command posts or online, local officials noted that many may have ascended beyond the allowed limits. Additionally, residents might have been present in the restricted area. These factors have made it challenging to ascertain the exact number of individuals affected by the eruption.

About 1 400 people reside on Marapi’s slopes, with the nearest villages located 5 to 6 km (3.1 – 3.7 miles) from the peak. The volcano is known for its unpredictable eruptions, which are difficult to detect due to the shallow source near the peak. Unlike other volcanoes, Marapi’s eruptions are not caused by deep magma movements but rather by shallower processes that do not produce noticeable seismic activity.

References:

1 Mount Marapi eruption: 23 people confirmed or presumed dead in Indonesia – The Guardian – December 5, 2023

2 High-level eruption at Marapi volcano, ash to 15 km (50 000 feet) a.s.l., Indonesia – The Watchers – December 3, 2023

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