‘Cold lava’ Sweeps towns near Volcano and Kills 41

Cold lava mudslides swamped two districts in West Sumatra, killing individuals and damaging over 100 buildings

At least 41 people were killed when flash floods and “cold lava” from a volcano struck the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.

On Saturday, hours of torrential rain pushed ash and debris down Mount Marapi, Sumatra’s most active volcano.

The mudslides flooded two districts, killing individuals and damaging over 100 homes, mosques, and other institutions.

Seventeen individuals are still missing.

Survivors described how they ran as the “cold lava” – a mixture of volcanic material and pebbles that flows down a volcano’s slopes in the rain – approached their homes.

“I heard thunder and a sound akin to boiling water. Rina Devina, a 43-year-old housewife from the Agam area, told AFP that she heard large rocks falling from Mount Marapi.

“It was pitch black, so I used my phone as a torch. “The road was muddy, so I chanted ‘God, have mercy’ over and over,” Ms Devina explained.

The mother of three further stated that a neighbor’s house had been “flattened by big rocks” and that four of her neighbours had died.

The phrase “cold lava” is an Indonesian and Tagalog translation of the term “lahar”. Temperatures range from 0°C to 100°C, depending on how they are generated, but are normally less than 50°C, according to various academic papers on the subject.

According to the US Geological Survey, a moving lahar resembles a “roiling slurry of wet concrete” that can expand in volume as it combines additional debris along its course.

According to the National Search and Rescue Agency, rescuers discovered 19 bodies in the worst-hit village of Canduang in Agam district on Sunday afternoon and nine more in the nearby district of Tanah Datar.

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Berliana Reskyka, another Agam local, shared his experiences assisting injured neighbours.

“Some people were crying, hysterically, because some of their family members were still missing. There were also individuals who found their loved ones had passed away,” .

The deluge is the most recent in a long line of natural disasters caused, at least in part, by human activity, according to environmental scientists.

“Flash floods and cold lava mudslides continue to reoccur and intensify as a result of overexploitation of natural resources and haphazard development,” stated Wengki Purwanto, director of the Indonesian Forum for Environment’s West Sumatra branch.

“As a result, calamities continue to occur year after year. Indeed, they become more common with each passing year. “The distance between one disaster and the next gets closer,” he remarked.

In the last six months, the area surrounding Mount Marapi has had a number of similar calamities.

Last December 5, 23 hikers were killed when the volcano erupted, and in February of this year, flash floods damaged scores of homes in Tanah Datar.

Just last month, days of eruption pushed massive clouds of ash into the sky, reaching heights of up to 2 kilometres. Flights in the region were halted, roads were stopped, and over 11,000 people were ordered to flee.

Marapi means “Mountain of Fire” in Minang, the native language.

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