Climbers perish, many others go missing after Indonesia’s Mount Marapi erupts

M. Sulthan Azzam
Padang, Indonesia
Climbers perish, many others go missing after Indonesia’s Mount Marapi erupts Mount Marapi volcano spews volcanic ash as seen from Nagari Batu Palano in Agam, West Sumatra province, Indonesia, Dec. 4, 2023.
[Antara Foto/Iggoy el Fitra/via Reuters]

An eruption of the Mount Marapi volcano in Indonesia left at least 11 climbers dead and 12 others missing, officials said Monday, after the mountain began spewing scorching ash a day earlier. 

Seventy-five climbers and hikers were on the mountain in West Sumatra province at the time of the eruption, and 52 of them had returned or been rescued, some with burns, according to provincial data. Rescue teams were still looking for the hikers who remained on the mountain, officials said.

“Today we searched the peak and found 14 people. Three were alive, 11 others were dead,” Abdul Malik, the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the provincial capital, told BenarNews.

Efforts to evacuate the dead and survivors were hampered by the ongoing eruptions, he added. 

Marapi has spewed ash, hot gas and other volcanic debris at least 45 times since Sunday, with eruptions lasting between 18 seconds and 4 minutes, said Ahmad Rifandi, the head of an observation post at the volcano.

Rescuers carry a climber injured in the eruption of Mount Marapi in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 4, 2023. [Givo Alputra/AP]

The agency chief also reported that showers of gravel had been deposited within a radius of 6 km (3.7 miles) from the peak and a rain of ash up to a radius of 13 km (8 miles) from the crater.

Mount Marapi, which means Mountain of Fire in the local language, is the most active volcano on Sumatra island. Before Sunday, its last deadly eruption occurred in 1979, killing at least 60 people and displacing thousands more.

The National Disaster Management Agency said 28 climbers were evacuated from Marapi on Monday.

Nine climbers with burn injuries were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, while some of the dead bodies that had been recovered were being identified, said Abdul Muhari, spokesman for the agency.

Authorities have urged the public, tourists and climbers not to conduct any activities within a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) radius from the peak, he said in a statement.

“In addition, people should wear masks, hats and glasses when outdoors and not spread information that cannot be verified for its accuracy,” Muhari said.

Teams prepare for a search-and-rescue operation after Mount Marapi erupted near Batu Palano village in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 4, 2023. [Adi Prima/AFP]

Rofid al-Hakim was one of the Mount Marapi climbers who was hospitalized for burns over the weekend in the town of Padang Panjang. 

His sister, Yulia Rahma, said Rofid and three of his friends survived by hiding behind a large rock when the eruption happened.

“We tried to stop him [from the climbing trip], but he went anyway with his friends,” Yulia told BenarNews, adding that her brother had no climbing experience. 

“When the eruption happened, we were shocked and looked for the list of hikers. Fortunately, Rofid was found and evacuated, even though he was injured,” she said.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, because it lies on the Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic and volcanic activity that stretches around the Pacific Ocean. 

The country has more than 120 active volcanoes, some of which pose serious threats to millions of people living nearby.


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