Eleven hikers have died and 12 remain missing after a volcano erupted in Indonesia, spewing thick plumes of ash as high as 10,000 feet into the air.
Around 75 people were exploring the area around Mount Marapi in West Sumatra on Sunday when it exploded, ejecting a huge cloud of volcanic dust and debris that coated nearby villages and blocked out the sun.
While 49 of the hikers made it back to the foot of the mountain, authorities found 11 bodies close to the crater on Monday morning. Three others were rescued.
Workers carried the dead and the injured down the mountain’s arduous terrain by foot and onto waiting ambulances.
The search for the 12 hikers still missing was temporarily paused later on Monday because of concerns over ongoing eruptions.
“It’s too dangerous if we continue searching now,” said Jodi Haryawan, a spokesman for the search and rescue team, adding that many of those who have escaped are being treated for burns and fractures at local hospitals.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire – where the meeting of continental plates triggers significant volcanic and seismic upheaval – and Mount Marapi is one of 127 active volcanoes spread throughout its archipelago.
In April 1979, 60 people died in the 2,900-metre-tall mountain’s deadliest eruption to date.
The volcano has been placed at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011, according to Hendra Gunawan, the head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation, meaning “there should be no climbing to the peak”.
But although climbers were only allowed below the danger zone, he said that “sometimes, many of them broke the rules to fulfil their satisfaction to climb further”.
Mr Gunawan added that the eruption – which projected ash towers higher than the mountain itself – was not preceded by a significant increase in volcanic earthquakes, suggesting the “centre of pressure is very shallow, around the peak”.
Authorities have imposed a three-kilometre exclusion zone around the volcano’s crater.
The eruption comes as 10 people remain missing in North Sumatra, after flash floods and a landslide hit a village near Lake Toba on Friday. At least one person has died, and dozens of homes and buildings have been swept away.