11 hikers killed in Marapi eruption in Sumatra, 12 still missing

Mt. Marapi, an active volcano that stands at a height of 2,891 metres above sea level, spewed plumes of white and gray ash 3,000 metres into the sky when it erupted on Dec 3, 2023.


December 5, 2023

JAKARTA – The bodies of at least 11 hikers were found on Monday after Mount Marapi erupted on Sunday, while authorities race to rescue another dozen hikers still trapped on the slopes of the West Sumatra volcano.

Mt. Marapi, an active volcano that stands at a height of 2,891 meters above sea level, spewed plumes of white and gray ash 3,000 meters into the sky when it erupted on Sunday.

A search and rescue (SAR) operation involving personnel from the Padang Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) and the Padang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), as well as volunteers, was launched on Sunday evening to locate the 75 hikers who had started climbing the mountain on Saturday.

The SAR team had evacuated 49 hikers as of Sunday, some with injuries such as burns and broken limbs.

Among the survivors is Zhafirah Zahrim Febrina, who asked for help in a video post that went viral on Sunday. Zhafirah appears in the clip covered in volcanic ash and struggling to breathe. She reportedly recorded the video herself to let her mother know of her condition.

Basarnas Padang head Abdul Malik said the team found Zhafirah weak and with burns, and that she was currently being treated at the regional general hospital in the nearby city of Padang Panjang.

“Zhafirah is going through tremendous trauma,” said her mother Rani Radelani, AFP reported. “She is affected psychologically because she saw her burns, and she also had to endure the pain all night.”

12 still missing

The SAR team found 14 other hikers near Marapi’s crater on Monday morning, including three survivors.

The team was racing to find the 12 remaining hikers, according to BPBD Padang head Abdul, but thick smog on Monday afternoon had hindered the operation.

“We’re currently working to bring down the [11 hikers’] bodies and find the remaining 12 missing hikers,” Abdul said, as quoted by Kompas.com.

Abdul said authorities had yet to identify the hikers who were killed.

All survivors had been taken to either the regional hospital in Padang Panjang or Bukittinggi, according to a statement from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

Mt. Marapi continues to erupt, with officials at an observation post recording at least 45 eruptions of various intensity levels since Sunday.

The volcano has been declared Level II (advisory) of Indonesia’s four-tier alert system.

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Authorities have closed two climbing routes following Sunday’s eruption and imposed a 3-kilometer exclusion zone from Marapi’s crater.

Local residents have been advised to abide by the exclusion zone, as well as wear masks, protect their water supply from ash, and remove volcanic materials from the roofs of their houses to prevent collapse.

Volcanic ash and small pyroclastic rocks from Marapi’s eruption on Sunday have affected at least 14 districts, including Bukittinggi, the third-largest city in West Sumatra with a population of more than 100,000.

Records show an increased level of volcanic activities at Mt. Marapi since it erupted on Jan. 7, spewing ash and volcanic materials. No casualties were reported during that incident. (nal)

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