The last hiker missing after a volcano eruption in Indonesia was found dead on Wednesday (Dec 6), rescuers said, raising the death toll to 23 three days after the disaster.
Mount Marapi on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia’s west spewed an ash tower 3,000m taller than the volcano itself – into the sky on Sunday as 75 people hiked in the area.
Hundreds of rescuers have worked tirelessly to find the missing hikers, who have been carried down the mountain in bodybags in an arduous search effort hampered by further eruptions and bad weather that sometimes forced workers to take shelter.
“The joint search and rescue team has found one victim of the Mount Marapi eruption, who is now in the process of being evacuated,” Abdul Malik, head of the Padang Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters on Wednesday evening.
Basarnas, the national search and rescue agency, earlier identified the final hiker as a woman.
It came after Suharyono, the West Sumatra police chief who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told reporters late on Tuesday that the last hiker was feared dead.
“23 people are suspected to have died. We all prayed they all could be rescued but there was nothing we could do, God and nature had made a decision,” he said.
Marapi, which means “Mountain of Fire”, was still billowing a column of smoke into the sky on Wednesday morning before another eruption just after midday local time (0500 GMT), an AFP journalist said.
Officials monitoring the volcano had also detected at least five further eruptions on Tuesday as the search went on.
Fifty-two people had been rescued since the eruption and some of the survivors have described their panic after it started.
“I was zig-zagging, going down around 30m to 40m” to a trekking post, Ridho, 22, told AFP from a bed in a nearby hospital.
“The eruption sounded loud, I took a look behind and then immediately ran away as everyone did. Some jumped and fell. I took cover behind the rocks, there were no trees there.”