A sudden eruption of an active volcano in the Sumatra Islands of Indonesia has so far claimed 15 lives according to official reports. According to Jarkata Post, this is the first time volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung had caused fatalities.
Spirals of volcanic ash spewed violently more than one mile into the sky, with temperatures reaching as much as 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The toxic ash from the volcano has also hindered search and rescue efforts to save more victims.
Yopie Haryadi, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue agency, said that among the dead were residents who returned to the scene to check on their homes, a high school teacher, a number of students and a journalist. Officials have now warned that there could be more eruptions and the death toll could rise as some people are ignoring the warning signs and returning to their homes.
“Sometimes people can come and go to check on their homes. We will try to search again, but we have to wait until the situation is clear, given the hot clouds,” said Mr. Yopie.
Mount Sinabung had been dormant for 400 years up until 2010. It has been emitting gas since September of last year. The Jakarta Post reported that about 31 people previously died from illnesses like hypertension and asthma caused by volcanic eruptions in recent years.
Due to escalating volcanic activity 22,000 people were forced into temporary camps last month. Parlindungan Harahap, a local reporter for Sumut Pos, said that about half those people were allowed to return home on Friday. On Sunday, disaster relief authorities denied the reporter's claim, saying that they made substantial efforts to keep evacuees away from the area. The newest eruption has now forced people living in 16 villages to vacate their homes. About 30,000 people have been relocated to 42 evacuation centers, according to Indonesian emergency response director, Billy Sumuan.
The government has given directions and issued the highest level of alert concerning the latest eruptions. For the time being, the local government has warned residents to stay at least 5 kilometers away from the zone around the volcano.
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