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Bad weather hinders search-and-rescue efforts in Indonesia volcano

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SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia, Dec 6 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s Semeru mountain volcano continued to produce hot ash clouds on Monday, days after a powerful eruption killed 15 people and left dozens more missing.

The highest mountain on the island of Java erupted dramatically on Saturday, firing a high column of ash into the sky that covered the surrounding villages.

Aerial footage of the affected areas showed roofs protruding from an ash landscape, while on the ground, military officers, police and residents dug through the mud with their hands to evacuate the victims.

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The death toll rose to 15 on Monday, while 27 people remain missing, Indonesia’s disaster relief agency said in a statement.

The volcano erupted again Monday morning, the Indonesia Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) confirmed through its Twitter account, warning of continued seismic activity.

Map of Semeru volcano in Indonesia. Includes locations of other active volcanoes.

“Semeru is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Before and after the December 4 eruption, it will continue to be active,” Liswanto, head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, told Reuters.

As some concerned residents returned to their homes to check things and livestock, Liswanto urged people to keep a safe distance.

“People need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he added.

In the Sumberwuluh area, rescue teams battled bad weather to pull victims out of the rubble.

“We were looking for nine people declared missing in this village and thank God we found them [the bodies of] three victims, “said Estianto Hendriantono, head of the local search and rescue effort.” The challenge for the evacuation was that they were trapped under logs and rocks and the ground was still hot. “

On Facebook, people have posted photos of their missing relatives, with public prayers for any information about their whereabouts.

Complicating logistics and rescue efforts, lava flows from Saturday’s eruption destroyed a bridge connecting two areas in the nearby Lumajang district with the city of Malang.

Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,700 displaced persons.

A trauma healing team has been sent to work with children affected by the blast, CNN Indonesia reported, as hundreds of aid packages, including rice, blankets and clothes and other basic necessities have been sent to the area.

Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country lying on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of ​​high seismic activity that rests on numerous tectonic plates.

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An arc of 40,000 kilometers of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partially surround the Pacific Ocean.

Additional reporting by Prasto Wardoyo; Writing by Kate Lamb; Edited by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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