Indonesia's Mount Merapi eruption leaves 11 climbers dead and several missing

Authorities raises alert to its second-highest level and prohibited residents from going within 3km of the crater

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Eleven climbers have been found dead in Indonesia a day after the eruption of Mount Merapi, with rescuers searching for at least 12 others reportedly missing.

The 2,891-metre-high Mount Merapi, on the island of Sumatra, erupted on Sunday, shooting ash plumes as high as 3km and raining debris over nearby villages.

Local and national agency officials raised the number of hikers believed to be on the mountain to 75.

“There are 26 people who have not been evacuated. We have found 14 of them – three were found alive and 11 were found dead,” AFP quoted Abdul Malik, the head of Padang Search and Rescue Agency, as saying a day after the eruption.

A small eruption on Monday led the search being suspended, said Jodi Haryawan, spokesman for the search and rescue team.

"It's too dangerous if we continue searching now,” he said.

Authorities raised the alert to its second-highest level and prohibited residents from going within 3km of the crater.

Video footage showed a huge cloud of volcanic ash spread across the sky, as well as cars and roads covered with ash.

At least 49 climbers were evacuated from the area earlier on Monday, with many being treated for burns, he said.

Falling ash blanketed several villages and blocked sunlight, National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said.

Authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear sunglasses to protect them from the volcanic ash, he said.

About 1,400 people live on Mount Merapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages to the volcano, about 5km to 6km from the peak.

Mr Abdul Muhari confirmed that authorities had been closely monitoring the volcano after sensors picked up increasing activity in recent weeks.

Mount Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes on Sumatra island and its most violent eruption was in April 1979, when 60 people died.

This year, it erupted between January and February, spewing ash at a distance of up to 1km from the peak.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific's so-called “Ring of Fire” and has 127 active volcanoes, according to the volcanology agency.

Updated: December 04, 2023, 7:59 AM