PADANG, Indonesia — The bodies of 11 climbers were found Monday, a day after a furious eruption of the Mount Marapi volcano, as Indonesian rescuers searched for 12 people apparently still missing.
Marapi has remained at the third highest alert level of four since 2011, a level indicating higher-than-normal volcanic activity and prohibiting climbers or villagers within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the summit, said Hendra Gunawan, director of the Center for Volcanology and Geology. Disaster mitigation.
“This means there should be no climbing to the summit,” Gunawan said, adding that climbers were only allowed below the danger zone, “but sometimes a lot of them were breaking the rules to satisfy their satisfaction of climbing further.”
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About 75 climbers had started climbing the nearly 2,900-meter (9,480-foot) mountain on Saturday and found themselves stranded. Eight of the people rescued Sunday were taken to hospital with burns and one also had a broken limb, said Hari Agustian, head of the local search and rescue agency in Padang, the provincial capital of West Sumatra.
All climbers had registered with two command posts or online with the West Sumatra Conservation Agency before ascending, Agustian said. It is possible that other people were using illegal routes or that local residents were active in the area, but this could not be confirmed, he said.
Marapi spewed thick columns of ash reaching 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) during Sunday’s eruption and clouds of hot ash spread for several kilometers. Nearby villages and towns were covered in tons of volcanic debris. Volcanic dust and rain stained the faces and hair of evacuated climbers, according to a video posted on social media.
Ashfall covered several villages and blocked sunlight, and authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear glasses to protect themselves from the volcanic ash. About 1,400 people live on the slopes of Marapi in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages located about 5 to 6 kilometers (3.1 to 3.7 miles) from the summit.
Gunawan said Sunday’s eruption was not preceded by a significant increase in volcanic earthquakes. Deep volcanic earthquakes were recorded only three times between November 16 and Sunday, while deformation equipment or inclinometer on the peak showed a horizontal pattern on the radial axis and slight inflation on the tangential axis.
“This shows that the eruption process is happening quickly and the center of pressure is very shallow, around the peak,” he said.
Marapi has been regularly observed erupting since 2004, with an interval of 2 to 4 years, Gunawan said.
“Marapi eruptions are always sudden and difficult to detect using equipment because the source is close to the surface,” Gunawan said. “This eruption was not caused by magma movement.”
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West Sumatra Search and Rescue Agency head Abdul Malik said rescuers found 11 bodies of climbers while searching for those still missing and rescued three others Monday morning.
“The process of evacuating bodies and survivors is still ongoing,” he said, adding that rescuers are still searching for 12 climbers believed to be still missing.
Marapi has been active since an eruption in January that caused no casualties. It is one of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific basin.
—Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.
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