Search for 10 missing hikers continues as death toll climbs to 13 in Indonesia’s Marapi eruption

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5th December 2023 – (Agam) Hundreds of Indonesian rescuers are tirelessly scouring the area in search of ten hikers who went missing following a devastating volcanic eruption that claimed the lives of thirteen people. The grim discovery of thirteen deceased hikers near the crater of Mount Marapi on Sumatra Island has sent shockwaves through the nation, with eleven deaths confirmed on Monday and an additional two on Tuesday.

Rescuers have faced treacherous conditions, battling against further eruptions and inclement weather, as they undertake the arduous task of locating survivors and recovering the bodies of the deceased. The eruption on Sunday propelled a towering ash column into the sky, reaching a height of 3,000 meters, surpassing even the volcano’s peak.

Abdul Malik, the head of the Padang Search and Rescue Agency, informed AFP that the death toll currently stands at thirteen, with the whereabouts of the ten missing hikers still unknown. Late on Monday, the bodies of the two additional deceased hikers were discovered. Five of the deceased have been brought down the mountainside for identification, while the remaining eight bodies are being carefully transported in body bags.

Heart-wrenching images shared by the national search and rescue agency, Basarnas, depict a team of six rescuers, donning orange jackets and hard hats, solemnly carrying a body down the rugged slopes of the volcano.

Despite ongoing volcanic activity, which has hindered the efforts of over 200 personnel, rescue teams persist in their manual evacuation attempts. They ascend the volcano on foot, navigating treacherous terrain, and transport the victims on stretchers due to the continuous eruptions and limited visibility. Hendri, a local rescue official, explained that their operations have been further impeded by heavy rainfall and poor visibility.

Ahmad Rifandi, the head of Marapi’s monitoring post, revealed that between midnight and 8am local time on Tuesday, the volcano had experienced five eruptions. The volcano remains highly active, with the height of the eruption column obscured by clouds, according to Rifandi.

Hendra Gunawan, the head of Indonesia’s volcanology agency, placed blame on hikers who ventured too close to the crater, despite the agency’s explicit recommendation against any human activities in that restricted zone. Gunawan emphasized the severe consequences faced by victims within a radius of one to 1.5 kilometres from the crater.

Authorities have determined that some hikers registered through an online booking system, while others may have taken illegal mountain routes. As loved ones anxiously await updates at an information centre located at the mountain’s base, stories of both tragedy and relief emerge. The family of Zhafirah Zahrim Febrina shared their relief after she was found alive, thanks to a livestream on the video app TikTok. Febrina, along with 18 school friends, had been trapped on the mountain during a hiking trip and suffered burns but survived.