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Indonesian President visits eruption survivors, vows to rebuild

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The Indonesian president visited areas devastated by a powerful volcanic eruption that killed at least 34 people and left thousands homeless, and pledged communities would be quickly rebuilt.

tons of hot ash were sent up into the sky and an avalanche of lava and gas swept up to 11 km down the slopes of Mount Semerus in a sudden eruption on Saturday triggered by heavy rain.

Villages and towns were covered with tons of volcanic debris.

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Rescuers and villagers carry a body bag containing the remains of a victim of the Mount Semeru eruption (Rokhmad / AP)

President Joko Widodo traveled to eruption-affected areas in Lumajang District, East Java Province, to reassure people that the government’s response is reaching those in need.

After visiting survivors in shelters on a football field, he pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Lumajang to other towns, and move more than 2,000 homes out of danger areas. .

Officials said earlier that residents of the hardest-hit villages would be relocated within the next six months and that each family waiting for a new home would receive 500,000 rupees (26) per month in compensation.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said 56 people were taken to hospital following the eruption, most with burns. He said rescuers were still looking for 17 missing villagers. Nearly 3,000 homes and 38 schools were damaged, he added.

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Mount Semeru releases volcanic material (Hendra Permana / AP)

The number of dead and missing is expected to rise, as much of the search area was mountainous and geographically difficult, said Andris Rufianto Putro, field coordinator for the Semeru emergency response at the Indonesian Red Cross.

On Tuesday, his teams recovered five bodies from the rubble of a house in Renteng hamlet, and two others found dead nearby, most of which had suffered burns. Five other bodies were found in the nearby village of Supiturang.

Cargo planes carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies landed on Tuesday for distribution to temporary shelters filled with around 3,700 displaced people.

The eruption of the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) mountain eased pressure that had built up under a lava dome in its crater. But experts warned the dome could collapse further, causing an avalanche of blister gas and debris trapped below.

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Soldiers search for victims at a location where a house is buried under volcanic ash in Lumajang (Trisnadi / AP)

Aid workers struggled on Tuesday to clear tons of volcanic debris and focused on three locations in the worst-hit village of Sumberwuluh, where people are still believed to be trapped in houses buried to the rooftops, Wayan Suyatna, who heads the local search and rescue agency said.

The volcanic ash deposits are always at high temperatures, and the deeper we dig, the hotter it gets, he added.

Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted several times over the past 200 years. But, as with many of Indonesia’s 129 monitored volcanoes, tens of thousands of people live on its fertile slopes. It erupted for the last time in January, claiming no casualties.

Indonesia, an archipelago of over 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity as it lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a series of fault lines shaped like a Horseshoe.

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