At least 11 hikers were killed and 12 others were missing after a volcano erupted in Indonesia on Sunday, spewing hot ash and gas that engulfed a popular hiking trail, an official said.
The victims were among dozens of people who were hiking up Mount Marapi, a 2,891-meter (9,485-foot) volcano on Sumatra island, when it suddenly erupted around noon local time.
“The eruption was very strong and sudden,” said Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency. “There was no early warning from the volcano observation post.”
He said the eruption sent a column of ash and smoke up to 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) into the air and triggered pyroclastic flows, fast-moving mixtures of hot gas and volcanic material, that swept down the slopes of the volcano.
“Some of the hikers were hit by the pyroclastic flows and buried under the volcanic ash,” he said.
Rescuers managed to evacuate 23 survivors, some of whom suffered burns and broken bones, and recovered 11 bodies by Monday morning, Jati said.
He said the search and rescue operation was still ongoing for the 12 missing hikers, but the conditions were challenging due to the thick ash and the risk of further eruptions.
Mount Marapi is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The volcano has been erupting sporadically since 2011, but its activity level has remained at the third-highest of four alert levels, meaning that people are advised to stay 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away from the crater.
The last deadly eruption of Mount Marapi occurred in 1979, when 80 people were killed. In 2010, another eruption killed two people, while in 2018, more than 2,000 people were displaced by a series of eruptions.
Indonesia has nearly 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country. In January, a powerful eruption of Mount Semeru, the highest volcano on Java island, killed 14 people and displaced thousands.