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Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts again

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts again
Photo: collected

Indonesia’s Mount Semeru volcano was active again on Monday, spewing out hot clouds of ash, two days after a powerful eruption killed at least 22 people and left dozens missing.

The biggest mountain on the island of Java thundered to life Saturday, ejecting a mushroom of volcanic ash high into the sky and raining hot mud as thousands of panicked people fled their homes.

Aerial photos showed entire streets filled with grey volcanic ash and mud, which had swallowed many homes and vehicles, including whole trucks. Rescue operations were suspended because of fresh volcanic activity on Monday.

“All evacuation teams have been pulled out… temporarily because there was a small fresh eruption and it could endanger the evacuation teams,” said rescue worker Rizal Purnama.

“The search will continue today once the situation is a bit safer.”

Indonesia’s national disaster agency said 27 people were still missing.

Dangerous thick plumes of smoke continued to emerge from areas blanketed by the volcanic ash, while rescuers in hardhats tried to dig through the mud to try and find survivors — and recover bodies.

Their task was made more difficult as the volcanic debris had started to harden.

“It’s very difficult… with simple tools,” Rizal Purnama said. “It is very likely bodies that have not been found are buried under the hot mudflow.”

Other rescuers helped desperate villagers salvage their belongings from wrecked homes. Some locals lifted mattresses and furniture on their shoulders while others carried goats in their arms.

Officials have advised locals not to travel within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of Semeru’s crater, as the nearby air is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.

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