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11 bodies recovered after volcanic eruption in Indonesia, and 12 climbers are still missing

by Michael Nguyen
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Volcanic Eruption Indonesia

The eruption of Mount Marapi in Indonesia has resulted in a tragic incident with 11 climbers losing their lives, and as of now, 12 climbers are still unaccounted for.

The recovery of the bodies of the 11 climbers occurred on Monday, a day following the furious eruption of Mount Marapi. Indonesian rescuers are diligently searching for the remaining 12 climbers who are currently considered missing.

Mount Marapi has been under the third highest alert level, signifying above-normal volcanic activity, and has prohibited climbers and villagers from approaching within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of its peak since 2011. Hendra Gunawan, the head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, emphasized the prohibition of climbing to the peak and mentioned that climbers were only permitted below the danger zone. However, some individuals, driven by their desire to ascend further, have occasionally violated these rules.

Approximately 75 climbers began their ascent of the nearly 2,900-meter (9,480-foot) mountain on Saturday and found themselves stranded. Eight of those rescued on Sunday were transported to hospitals, with some suffering from burns, and one individual had a broken limb. This information was provided by Hari Agustian, an official at the local Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province.

All climbers had registered either at two command posts or online through West Sumatra’s conservation agency before embarking on their climb, according to Agustian. While it remains a possibility that some took unauthorized routes or that local residents were present in the area, this could not be confirmed.

Sunday’s eruption of Mount Marapi ejected dense ash columns as high as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) into the air, and hot ash clouds spread over several kilometers. Nearby villages and towns were covered with tons of volcanic debris. The falling ash not only blanketed several villages but also obstructed sunlight, prompting authorities to distribute masks and encourage residents to wear eyeglasses for protection from volcanic ash. Approximately 1,400 people reside on the slopes of Mount Marapi in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages located about 5 to 6 kilometers (3.1 to 3.7 miles) from the peak.

Gunawan noted that there had not been a significant increase in volcanic earthquakes preceding Sunday’s eruption. Deep volcanic earthquakes were recorded only three times between November 16 and Sunday. The deformation equipment on the peak indicated a horizontal pattern on the radial axis and slight inflation on the tangential axis, suggesting that the eruption occurred rapidly with shallow pressure concentrated around the peak.

Mount Marapi has been periodically erupting since 2004, with eruptions occurring every 2 to 4 years, according to Gunawan. These eruptions are known for their suddenness and are challenging to detect using equipment due to their proximity to the surface. Gunawan emphasized that the eruption was not caused by magma movement.

Abdul Malik, the head of West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency, reported that rescuers have located 11 bodies of climbers while searching for those still missing. The evacuation efforts for both the bodies and survivors are ongoing, with rescuers continuing their search for the 12 climbers who are reportedly still missing.

Mount Marapi has exhibited activity since a January eruption that fortunately resulted in no casualties. Indonesia, with its location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” which encompasses an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin, is home to more than 120 active volcanoes and is prone to seismic events.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Volcanic Eruption Indonesia

What caused the eruption of Mount Marapi in Indonesia?

The eruption of Mount Marapi in Indonesia was not preceded by a significant increase in volcanic earthquakes. Deep volcanic earthquakes were recorded only three times between November 16 and the eruption on Sunday. The deformation equipment on the peak showed a horizontal pattern on the radial axis and a slight inflation on the tangential axis, indicating that the eruption occurred rapidly with shallow pressure concentrated around the peak. Importantly, this eruption was not caused by the movement of magma.

How many climbers were affected by the eruption?

Approximately 75 climbers had embarked on their ascent of Mount Marapi on the day of the eruption. Of these, 11 climbers lost their lives, and eight were rescued with injuries, including burns and broken limbs. As of now, 12 climbers remain missing, and search and rescue operations are ongoing.

What safety measures were in place for climbers before the eruption?

Mount Marapi had been under the third highest alert level since 2011, which prohibited climbers and villagers from approaching within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of its peak. Climbers were only allowed below the danger zone. All climbers were required to register either at two command posts or online through West Sumatra’s conservation agency before beginning their ascent. Despite these measures, some climbers still violated the rules.

Is this eruption part of a pattern of volcanic activity in the region?

Yes, Mount Marapi has been observed to erupt regularly since 2004, with eruptions occurring every 2 to 4 years. These eruptions are known for their suddenness and are challenging to detect using equipment due to their proximity to the surface. Indonesia, as a whole, is prone to volcanic activity due to its location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” which encompasses an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

How are local residents and villages coping with the aftermath of the eruption?

The eruption resulted in the blanketing of nearby villages and towns with tons of volcanic debris and ash. Authorities distributed masks to residents and encouraged them to wear eyeglasses for protection from volcanic ash. Additionally, falling ash blocked sunlight in the affected areas. About 1,400 people live on the slopes of Mount Marapi in nearby villages, and they are currently dealing with the impact of the eruption.

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