By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo vowed that his government would help rebuild communities after the eruption of one of Indonesia’s active volcanoes killed at least 34 people and left thousands homeless.
Witnesses said clouds of hot ash shot high into the sky, and an avalanche of lava and searing gas swept as far as 11 kilometers (7 miles) down Mount Semeru’s slopes in a sudden eruption Saturday triggered by heavy rain.
Villages and towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris in the Lumajang district in East Java province.
After visiting survivors in shelters on a soccer field, he pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Lumajang to other cities. He also wants to and move about 2,970 houses out of danger zones.
Officials earlier said authorities would relocate residents of the hardest-hit villages within the next six months. Each family waiting for a new house will be provided 500,000 rupiahs ($34.50) a month in compensation, a significant amount for impoverished people in the area.
It did little to ease the pain of villagers seen confirming each other in a makeshift shelter in the Sumberwuluh village. Elsewhere a woman welt after her home was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Semeru in Candi Puro village.
And as rescuers were seen carrying a victim’s body, they still faced the uphill battle of searching for a further 22 villagers still missing, authorities said.
Beyond those who died, more than 100 people were hospitalized after the eruption, 22 of them with serious injuries, mostly burns, officials said. Nearly 3,000 houses and 38 schools were damaged, according to official estimates.
The number of dead and missing was due to rise as much of the search area was mountainous and “geographically difficult,” said Andris Rufianto Putro, a field coordinator at the Indonesian Red Cross.
His teams retrieved five bodies from the rubble of a home in the hamlet of Renteng on Tuesday, and two others were found dead nearby. Five other bodies were found in the neighboring village of Supiturang.
Sometimes the teams interrupted their dangerous efforts as Indonesia’s Mount Semeru spewed more ash, forcing rescuers to suspend the search.
Semeru, the tallest mountain on the nation’s most densely populated island of Java, rises 3,676 meters (12,060 feet) above sea level. It is also among Indonesia’s 130 active volcanoes.
The last time it erupted was in December 2020, forcing thousands of residents to take shelter. Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where continental plates meet, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity, experts say.
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.