14 dead, 9 missing as downpours hamper search for Indonesia’s volcano eruption victims

At least 14 people were killed and nine villagers remained missing after Mount Semeru in Lumajang district of Indonesia’s East Java province erupted on Saturday, the National Disaster Management and Mitigation Agency’s acting spokesman, Abdul Muhari, said on Sunday.
Downpours were predicted to fall through the crater and slope of the volcano in the next three days, which may slow the search and evacuation of the victims, Muhari said. 
“The nine people are still in the status of missing or dead,” the spokesman told a joint virtual press conference. 
As many as 1,300 people have taken shelters to evacuation centers, the spokesman said, adding that health protocols would be applied at the centres. 
“We have sent as many as 20,000 pieces of face masks to the evacuation centres, not only to prevent corona viruses from spreading but also to avert respiratory problems,” he said.
The official said the government would provide aid in cash of 500,000 rupiahs (about 34.7 U.S. dollars) per month for one family within the next six months for renting houses, while the government would look for new locations to build houses for those affected by the disaster. 
Logistics aids for the affected people have been distributed to the evacuation centres, Muhari said. 
The volcano eruption with the release of hot clouds has destroyed hundreds of houses, a bridge, education facilities and other infrastructure facilities, according to the agency and a government official. 
The Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre’s Head Andiani told the conference that Saturday’s eruption released hot clouds by up to 11 km from the crater, and on Sunday, the volcano also spewed hot clouds twice.
The evacuation, and search and rescue operation for the victims may be hampered by downpours which may trigger lava floods. The country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency warned that heavy rains may happen in days ahead. 
“There are still a potential of rains, with the level of weak, moderate and heavy pouring down the areas of the crater and the slope of the volcano in the next three days,”
A Fachri Rajab, head of the Center of Public Meteorology of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said. Volcanic ashes along with heavy downpours have become thick muds which submerged houses, roads and other infrastructure facilities in Lumajang district. -Xinhua 

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