The Eruption of Mount Marapi , located on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, claimed the lives of eleven hikers near the volcano’s crater. Twelve others remain missing, and the search operation was abruptly halted on Monday due to a subsequent, smaller eruption.
The eruption, which occurred on Sunday, saw 75 hikers in the vicinity, with the majority successfully evacuated. However, the aftermath proved fatal for some, as Mount Marapi spewed a massive 3-kilometer (9,800 feet) ash cloud into the atmosphere, casting a dark shadow over the sky and covering surrounding villages in ash.
Among Indonesia’s 127 volcanoes, Mount Marapi is renowned for its activity and is a popular destination for hikers. Trails in the area had only recently reopened in June following ash eruptions earlier in the year. The deadliest eruption in the volcano’s history dates back to 1979, claiming 60 lives.
Rescue efforts faced a significant setback when a smaller eruption on Monday forced the suspension of the search for the missing hikers. Three individuals were rescued near the crater before operations were halted, with Abdul Malik, head of the Padang Search and Rescue Agency, describing them as “weak and had some burns.” Earlier that day, forty-nine climbers were evacuated from the area, many of whom sustained burns during the eruption.
Authorities have yet to release the identities of the deceased and missing hikers. Video footage of Sunday’s eruption depicted a colossal cloud of volcanic ash spreading across the sky, coating cars and roads with ash. Rescue workers faced challenging conditions as they navigated the mountain’s treacherous terrain, carrying the dead and injured onto waiting ambulances with blaring sirens.
“Some suffered from burns because it was very hot, and they have been taken to the hospital,” explained Rudy Rinaldi, head of the West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency.
One survivor, Zhafirah Zahrim Febrina, sent a distressing video message from the volcano to her mother. The 19-year-old student, known as Ife, appeared shocked, with her face burnt and hair matted with thick grey ash. Ife was on a hiking trip with 18 school friends and is currently undergoing treatment in the hospital. Her mother, Rani Radelani, expressed that her daughter underwent “tremendous trauma” both physically and psychologically.
As the rescuers faced perilous conditions, Jodi Haryawan, spokesperson for the local search and rescue team, emphasized the danger of continuing the search during ongoing volcanic activity.
Mount Marapi’s eruption serves as a somber reminder of the unpredictable nature of volcanic activity in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Indonesian archipelago experiences heightened volcanic and seismic activity. Authorities are now focusing on supporting the affected families and reassessing the safety of the region in the aftermath of this tragic event.