At least 13 people were killed, dozens injured and hundreds of families left homeless after Mount Semeru’s eruption on Saturday.
Surrounded by an apocalyptic scene of molten ash and mud, residents living in the shadow of Indonesia’s Mount Semeru combed through devastated possessions after their homes were covered by the volcanic eruption on Saturday.
Fathers rocked grieving daughters, elderly villagers lifted mattresses on their backs and farmers carried goats that survived and tried to save what they could from where their village once existed.
“We did not know it was hot mud,” said Bunadi, a resident of Kampung Renteng village.
“Suddenly the sky became dark as rain and hot smoke came.”
The eruption killed 14 people and injured 56, a disaster relief agency official said Sunday.
The injuries, of which 35 were serious, were lower than the previous count of 98. The official also said 1,300 people had been evacuated.
It also left many homeless and hundreds in shelters.
At a local mosque, mothers sat on the floor next to their sleeping children, happy to escape the flood that enveloped entire villages in ashes and left dozens with serious burns.
Some returned to their ghost towns after the eruption despite the risks to their health from dirty air, desperate to pick up the pieces from the sharp sea of mud.
In one house in the Lumajang district of East Java, plates, pots and pans were placed on a table as if dinner were being served, but the food was replaced with portions of volcanic ash.
Some were desperately searching for missing friends and family.
“There were 10 people who were carried away by the mud flow,” said Salim, another Kampung Renteng resident. “One of them was almost saved. He was told to run away, but said, “I can not, who will feed my cows?”
Roofs of houses in the village of Sumber Wuluh protruded from layers of thick mud, emphasizing the sheer volume that had descended on the area.
Cows either lay dead or clung to life with their flesh ripped off by the scorching heat.
A cigarette hung from the mouth of one evacuee as he was pulled to safety while rescuers dressed in orange uniforms worked against a hellish dark gray background.
One group of Sumber Wuluh residents stood together in the ashes, looking in the direction of Semeru’s crater as smoke continued to flow.
With black, leafless trees, submerged cars and barricaded buildings all around, they and their animals were the only life where everything fell silent.
Indonesia, an archipelago with more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.