Flash Floods, Cold Lava Kill at Least 37 in Indonesia

Water swept people away and swamped houses
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2024 11:30 AM CDT
Flash Floods, Cold Lava Kill at Least 37 in Indonesia
This drone shot shows buildings damaged by a flash flood in Tanah Datar, West Sumatra, Indonesia, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Sutan Malik Kayo)

Heavy rains and torrents of cold lava and mud flowing down a volcano's slopes on Indonesia's Sumatra island triggered flash floods that killed at least 37 people, officials said Sunday. More than a dozen others were missing, the AP reports. Monsoon rains and a major mudslide from a cold lava flow on Mount Marapi caused a river to breach its banks and tear through mountainside villages in four districts in West Sumatra province just before midnight on Saturday. The floods swept away people and submerged more than 100 houses and buildings, a National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson said. Cold lava, also known as lahar, is a mixture of volcanic material and pebbles that flows down a volcano's slopes in the rain.

By Sunday afternoon, rescuers had pulled out 19 bodies in the worst-hit village of Canduang in Agam district and recovered nine other bodies in the neighboring district of Tanah Datar, the National Search and Rescue Agency said in a statement. The agency said eight bodies were pulled from mud during deadly flash floods that also hit Padang Pariaman, and one body was found in the city of Padang Panjang. It said rescuers are searching for 18 people. Flash floods on Saturday night caused main roads around the Anai Valley Waterfall area in Tanah Datar district to be blocked by mud, cutting off access to other cities, an official said Sunday. Videos released by the National Search and Rescue Agency showed roads transformed into murky brown rivers.

The disaster came two months after heavy rains triggered flash floods and a landslide in West Sumatra's Pesisir Selatan and Padang Pariaman districts, killing at least 21 people and leaving five missing, per the AP. The 9,465-foot Mount Marapi erupted late last year killing 23 climbers who were caught by a surprise weekend eruption. The volcano has stayed at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011, indicating above-normal volcanic activity, under which climbers and villagers must stay more than about two miles from the peak, according to Indonesia's Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.

(More Indonesia stories.)

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