Death toll from Indonesia’s Marapi eruption rises

M. Sulthan Azzam
Padang, Indonesia
Death toll from Indonesia’s Marapi eruption rises This handout photo taken on Dec. 4, 2023 by the National Search and Rescue Agency shows rescuers evacuating one of the victims from the slopes of Mount Marapi in West Sumatra.

Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET on 2023-12-06

The death toll from the eruption of Mount Marapi in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province has risen to 23 people killed, officials said Wednesday.

Marapi, one of the most active volcanoes in the country, spewed hot ash and gas thousands of meters into the sky on Sunday, engulfing dozens of people who were hiking near the crater.

Abdul Malik, the head of the search and rescue office in Padang, said 74 victims had been evacuated, while one was still unaccounted for.

A team of about 300 people was still searching for people who might have been on the mountain at the time of the eruption, but not registered, said the West Sumatra police chief, Suharyono, who goes by one name. 

Rescuers have carried the victims of the eruption down the mountain in body bags, after which they have been identified by a specialist team from the West Sumatra police at a hospital in Bukittinggi, a city near the volcano.

Lisda Cancer, the head of the medical and health division of the provincial police, said the identification process was done through DNA testing, fingerprints and dental records.

“We are still waiting for [the possibility of] other victims. The report we received, the evacuation team has moved down,” Lisda said.

Volcanic ash rain from Marapi’s eruption still affected several regencies in West Sumatra on Wednesday, prompting local authorities to advise residents to reduce outdoor activities and wear masks, the National Disaster Management Agency said in a statement.

Bambang Wasito, the head of the local disaster management agency, said none of the residents in the affected areas had evacuated, but authorities had activated and prepared health centers in nearby clinics.

The district government also asked residents to avoid activities within a 3-kilometer radius from the crater peak, as the volcano’s alert level remained at level II.

Mount Marapi, which is not to be confused with the similarly named Mount Merapi in Central Java, is one of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a belt of seismic activity around the ocean’s rim.

The volcano, which has a height of 2,891 meters (9,485 feet), last erupted in 2018, injuring four people. Its deadliest eruption was in 1979, when it killed at least 60 people.


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