At least 22 dead after the eruption of the Mount Semeru volcano

(CNN) — The death toll from Saturday’s eruption of the Semeru volcano has risen to 22, the head of the Mount Semeru eruption management task force, Infantry Colonel Irwan Surbekti, told CNN.

Sixteen of the victims have been identified, including two women and two children. Another five have yet to be identified, Surbekti said.

At least 54 people were injured and hospitalized, all with burns caused by hot lava and pyroclastic flows, a mixture of ash, rock and volcanic gases. Another 21 people are still missing.

Search and rescue operations have faced challenges over the past three days, including the risk of pyroclastic flows and the fact that many areas remain hot after being covered by lava, making movement risky.

“We are facing challenges while carrying out the evacuation operation, because the hot ash clouds can hit us at any moment,” Surbekti said. He also said that the lava continues to flow to lower ground.

At least 300 families were evacuated after the eruption, according to Indah Amperawati, deputy director of the Lumajang district, an area close to the volcano.

In its statement on Sunday, the BNPB said search and rescue efforts were ongoing, but did not specify the number of people reported missing.

Authorities say the situation on Mount Semeru remains dangerous due to the risk of pyroclastic flows, a mix of volcanic ash, rock and gas that can be much more dangerous than lava.

“We recommend everyone to increase their alert because the threat potential of pyroclastic flows remains high. It can happen at any time without any warning,” the head of the Mount Semeru Observation Post, Liswanto, told CNN on Sunday.

Liswanto said on Sunday that his team recorded two pyroclastic flow events. The first was at 5 am local time and the second at 10 am local time. Deadly volcanic material rolled into the village of Curah Kobokan, which was evacuated on Saturday.

They have urged people living up to 10 kilometers away from the volcano to evacuate, as the pyroclastic flows “are very hot, the temperature can reach over 1,000 degrees Celsius,” Liswanto said.

Since there are no signs or methods to predict when the pyroclastic flow will occur, the phenomenon can be very dangerous, Liswanto said.

evacuations in progress

A rescue volunteer in Indonesia’s Lumajang district told CNN on Sunday that he and his team evacuated the bodies of six miners from a river in the village of Curah Kobokan, where they were mining sand on the riverbank.

Some of the miners were still inside their vehicles, while others were discovered lying on the ground near the trucks, said 32-year-old volunteer Muhammad Firman Adiguna Effasa. It’s unclear if those six deaths are part of the 14 deaths authorities previously announced.

He added that he was worried that there might still be more miners or other victims, but they might not survive because the lava flood was so intense.

The authorities have transformed schools, mosques, town halls and village houses into evacuation centers, according to the statement.

Java is the largest population center in Indonesia’s huge archipelago of islands and is home to the capital city of Jakarta. At over 3,600 meters high, Mount Semeru is the highest mountain in Java.

Lumajang district deputy director Indah said most of the burn victims have been evacuated to Penanggal Primary Health Center along with a resident who died in Curah Kobokan village.

Emergency services have been unable to reach several other villages as roads are blocked by mud and fallen trees, Indah told the news conference.

The armed forces have been asked for people and equipment to support the rescue efforts, Maj. Gen. TNI Suharyanto, head of the BNPB, told the news conference.

After arriving at the scene on Sunday, Suharyanton said gathering information on the number of victims and displaced persons has been difficult, and the exact number of victims and displaced persons is still unclear.

Budi Santosa, head of disaster management for East Java province, said on Saturday that two sub-districts had been “severely affected” by the volcano’s eruption.

The volcanic ash and sulfur smell was first reported around 3 p.m. local time (3 a.m. Miami time), according to the Mount Semeru Volcano Observation Post. The station added that clouds of hot ash were falling towards an East Java village of Sapitarang in Pronojiwo district.

Mount Semeru spews ash into the air during an eruption on Saturday.

Videos shared by government emergency response teams showed area residents fleeing huge, thick clouds of ash. Other images shared by locals showed people gathering at a local mosque in Besuk Kobokan as smoke blanketed the surrounding streets.

Santosa said at the news conference that he believed that health facilities in the disaster area, whether primary health centers or hospitals, could house the victims.

His team is trying to carry out evacuations and prepare refugee camps in the area, which would provide food, masks, blankets and shelter for displaced residents.

Indonesia sits between two continental plates in what is known as the Ring of Fire, a band around the Pacific Ocean basin that is conducive to high levels of tectonic and volcanic activity.

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