Villages scorched after deadly volcanic eruption

Indonesian rescuers searching for survivors in scorched villages and devastated farmlands yesterday after a volcano erupted in clouds of searing ash and gas, killing seven people and leaving others suffering life-threatening burns. Witnesses describe
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Indonesian rescuers searching for survivors in scorched villages and devastated farmlands yesterday after a volcano erupted in clouds of searing ash and gas, killing seven people and leaving others suffering life-threatening burns. Witnesses described sheer panic as waves of gas and fine rock were unleashed from Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island on Saturday, consuming farmers trying to flee the slopes of the highly active volcano. The fast-moving flows - reaching temperatures of up to 700 deg C - incinerated homes and left livestock blackened and peeling. Mr Agustatius Sitepu, head of the local military in Karo district where the volcano is situated, arrived to scenes of chaos as rescue crews raced to reach those still alive. "The villagers who managed to survive were running around in panic, trying to save themselves," he told Agence France-Presse. "There were only a few dozen. They were terrified. They were covered in ash." The eruptions were so violent that townships as far away as 12km were covered in thick layers of ash, he added. Those villagers who were worst affected were all farming within the "red zone" - an area 4km from Sinabung declared off limits by the authorities - when the volcano erupted. Apart from the seven people who died, two are in hospital after suffering horrific burns.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Villages scorched after deadly volcanic eruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe