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Death toll rises to 13 in Indonesia volcano eruption

A factory building is covered by ash from the eruption of Mount Semeru in Lumajang district, East Java province, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)
A factory building is covered by ash from the eruption of Mount Semeru in Lumajang district, East Java province, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

The death toll following the eruption of the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java has risen to 13, with seven people still missing, officials say, as smoldering debris and thick mud hampered search efforts.

Mount Semeru in Lumajang district in East Java province spewed thick columns of ash more than 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) into the sky, and searing gas and lava flowed down its slopes after a sudden eruption Saturday triggered by heavy rains. Several villages were blanketed with falling ash.

A thunderstorm and days of rain, which eroded and finally collapsed the lava dome atop the 3,676-meter (12,060-foot) Semeru, triggered the eruption, says Eko Budi Lelono, who heads the geological survey center.

He says flows of searing gas and lava traveled up to 800 meters (2,624 feet) to a nearby river at least twice on Saturday. People were advised to stay 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the crater’s mouth, the agency says.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari says at least 13 villagers have died from severe burns and 57 are hospitalized, including 16 in critical condition with burn injuries. He says rescuers are still searching for seven residents and sand miners along a river in Curah Kobokan village who were reported missing.

Entire houses in the village were damaged by volcanic debris and more than 900 people fled to temporary government shelters, says Muhari.

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