The eruption of Mount Marapi in Indonesia has resulted in the recovery of 11 bodies of climbers, with 12 still missing. The volcano has been at the third highest alert level since 2011, indicating above normal volcanic activity and prohibiting climbers or villagers within 1.8 miles of the peak. Despite this, many climbers broke the rules and ventured further up the mountain, leading to the tragic events that unfolded.
A total of 75 climbers had started their way up the nearly 9,480-foot mountain on Saturday and became stranded. Eight of those rescued Sunday were rushed to hospitals with burns and one also had a broken limb. All of the climbers had registered at two command posts or online through West Sumatra’s conservation agency before they climbed. It was possible others took illegal roads or local residents were active in the area, but it couldn’t be confirmed.
Marapi spewed thick columns of ash as high as 9,800 feet in Sunday’s eruption and hot ash clouds spread several miles. Nearby villages and towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris. Volcanic dust and rain smeared the faces and hair of evacuated climbers, according to video on social media. Falling ash blanketed several villages and blocked sunlight, and authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear eyeglasses to protect them from volcanic ash.
About 1,400 people live on Marapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages about 3.1 to 3.7 miles from the peak. Gunawan said that Sunday’s eruption was not preceded by a significant increase in volcanic earthquakes. Deep volcanic earthquakes were only recorded three times between Nov. 16 and on Sunday, while the deformation equipment or tiltmeter on the peak showed a horizontal pattern on the radial axis and a slight inflation on the tangential axis.
Marapi has been observed regularly erupting since 2004 with a gap of 2 to 4 years. “Marapi eruptions are always sudden and difficult to detect using equipment because the source is near the surface,” Gunawan said, “This eruption was not caused by the movement of magma.” West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency head Abdul Malik said rescuers found 11 bodies of climbers as they searched for those who still missing and rescued three others Monday morning.
The evacuation process of the bodies and survivors is still ongoing, with rescuers still searching for 12 climbers reportedly still missing. Marapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
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