New Indonesian volcanic eruption halts search
Mount Sinabung rescue operation halted as volcano continues to spew hot ash and rocks
A volcano in western Indonesia that killed 15 people in a weekend eruption shot hot ash and rocks high into the air again on Monday, halting a search for any more victims.
Before they stopped their search, a rescue team found the charred wreckage of motorcycles buried under ash which they believe had been carrying some of those killed by Mount Sinabung’s eruption on Saturday.
The weekend eruption was the first to claim any lives since Sinabung on Sumatra island rumbled back to life in September after lying dormant for several years, and sent vast clouds cascading down its slopes.
On Monday, Sinabung, which often erupts numerous times a day, spewed clouds of hot ash and rocks up to 2,500 metres into the air, the national disaster agency said.
“For the safety of the rescuers we decided to temporarily halt the search operation at midday,” local rescue agency chief Rochmali, who goes by one name, said. There were no reports of new casualties from the latest eruption.
He added that rescuers had yet to see any signs of life during their search on Monday and did not believe anyone else was still missing.
However, he said the team had found the wreckage of eight motorbikes believed to have been carrying 14 of those killed in Saturday’s eruption.
The bikes were inside the five-kilometre danger zone, an area decreed by the authorities that was supposed to be off-limits, he added.
Rochmali said officials were considering a permanent halt to the search and would decide later on Monday.
The weekend eruption blanketed the countryside surrounding the volcano with grey ash.
Most of the victims – who were mainly local tourists and included four high-school students – died instantly when they were cloaked in clouds of hot gas and ash.
Sinabung is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.
The country’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of eruptions in 2010.