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Death toll rises to 34 after eruption in Indonesia

By Muktita Suhartono


The death toll from a volcanic eruption last weekend on the Indonesian island of Java rose to 34, officials announced Tuesday, as rescuers tried to dig out survivors buried under ash.


Abdul Muhari of Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management, known by its initials BNPB, said 17 people were still missing after Mount Semeru, in East Java, sent volcanic ash soaring 40,000 feet into the air and flowing into surrounding villages and towns Saturday, burying residents, buildings and vehicles.


Video footage shared widely on social media showed villagers trying to flee the billowing clouds, which plunged some areas into darkness. More than 50 people sustained burns and other injuries, with 35 in serious condition. Thousands of houses were destroyed by the eruption, and dozens of schools were damaged, according to the BNPB.


The agency said that about 5,205 people were affected by the eruption, with 3,697 displaced from their homes and now living in temporary shelters across 19 locations in the sub-districts of Pronojiwo, Candipuro and Pasirian.


President Joko Widodo told reporters that at least 2,000 houses would have to be “relocated.”


“We will decide immediately on where to relocate, and we will immediately build,” he said.


Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a series of fault lines, and frequently experiences earthquakes and volcanic activity. Mount Semeru is one of the country’s most active volcanoes and Java’s tallest mountain, standing at more than 12,000 feet high. Mount Semeru last erupted in January.

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