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Marapi eruption death toll rises to 23

Indonesia's Mount Marapi volcano
Indonesia's Mount Marapi volcano Copyright Foto: Captura de pantalla de vídeo AFP
Copyright Foto: Captura de pantalla de vídeo AFP
By Euronews with Associated Press
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The latest bodies were found only a few metres from the eruption site, police said in a statement. The bodies of five climbers have been recovered, and 18 are presumed dead due to their proximity to the eruption of hot gases and ash.

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Rescuers searching the hazardous slopes of Indonesia's Mount Marapi volcano found more bodies among the climbers caught by a surprise eruption two days ago, raising the number of confirmed and presumed dead to 23.

More than 50 climbers were rescued after the initial eruption Sunday, and 11 others were initially confirmed dead. Another eruption Monday spewed a new burst of hot ash as high as 800 metres into the air and temporarily halted search operations.

The latest bodies were found only a few metres from the eruption site, police said in a statement. The bodies of five climbers have been recovered, and 18 are presumed dead due to their proximity to the eruption of hot gases and ash.

Rescuers are battling bad weather and terrain constraints, as the scouring wind brings heat from the eruptions.

A video released by West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency showed rescuers evacuating an injured climber on a stretcher off the mountain and into a waiting ambulance to be taken to hospital.

According to Indonesia's Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, Marapi has stayed at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011, a level indicating above-normal volcanic activity, prohibiting climbers and villagers within 3 kilometres of the peak.

Climbers were only allowed below the danger zone, and they had to register at two command posts or online. However, local officials acknowledged many people may have climbed higher than permitted and residents also could have been in the area, making the number of people stranded by the eruption impossible to confirm.

Marapi spewed thick columns of ash as high as 3,000 metres in Sunday's eruption and hot ash clouds spread for several kilometres. Nearby villages and towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris that blocked sunlight. Authorities have recommended people wear masks and eyeglasses if possible to protect themselves from the ash.

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

Marapi is known for having sudden eruptions that are difficult to detect because the source is shallow and near the peak. Its eruptions are not caused by deep movement of magma, which sets off tremors that register on seismic monitors.

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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