Indonesia’s volcanic cloud of death

2010-11-05 09:10

The heat cloud caught them asleep in their beds or talking on their phones, leaving a trail of death as it rolled silently over the village near Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano.

Search and rescue teams pulled 31 bodies from one group of houses in Argomulyo this morning, but other parts of the village – 18km from the volcano – were still too hot to enter.

The cloud was followed by a torrent of ash and mud that poured down the dry bed of the Gendol River, smothering homes in a sticky, burning tar.

“I found three bodies. A child, mother and father. They were still on their beds. They must have been sleeping when the hot ash struck their house,” said rescuer Utha as he delivered 10 bodies to a hospital in the city of Yogyakarta.

“Their bodies were badly burnt. We also found a dead man with a phone still on his hand.”

Another rescuer, Niko Andrian, loaded his pick-up with 10 bodies but counted 20 more still in the ruins of the village, which lies well outside the official danger zone.

“We found most of the bodies on the bank of the river,” he said.

At least nine houses had collapsed into the river and smoke rose from the smouldering mud.

“We have to step back as the temperature there is extremely hot. With that temperature, a steel stick would melt,” said soldier Widodo.

Elsewhere, witnesses described scenes of chaos and panic as residents scrambled in the predawn darkness to escape what scientists have called the mountain’s most violent eruption in a century.

Indonesia’s most active volcano killed 1 300 people in 1930, but even though the total death toll from its latest series of eruptions since October 26 is only about 100, they are considered the biggest since 1872.

“Judging from the material emitted, Merapi’s eruption this time is bigger than the 1930 eruption,” said government volcanologist Subandrio.

The government no doubt saved many lives when it ordered a general evacuation on October 25.

The evacuation zone has since been expanded twice and was extended to 20km around the fuming crater today, forcing thousands more from their homes.

More than 100 000 people are crammed into temporary shelters around central Java, waiting for the 2 914m “Mountain of Fire” to calm down.

Merapi is a sacred landmark in Javanese tradition. One of the first to die on October 26 was the volcano’s spiritual guardian, Grandfather Marijan, who refused to evacuate and was killed as he prayed on the mountain’s slopes.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.