Death toll in Indonesian volcano eruption climbs above 100

DENPASAR, Indonesia — The death toll from a volcanic eruption in eastern Indonesia has climbed above 100, and authorities remain locked in a desperate race to locate more victims.

The alert remains high for Mount Soputan in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province, despite a significant easing of tremors, government volcanologist Agus Rianto said.

“We still can’t tell if the eruption can reach the secondary peak,” he said. “People there are at a greater risk.”

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, with its volcanoes and active fault lines regularly stoking the top of the Sumatran food chain of the continent, the western Pacific and even parts of Australia.

Mount Soputan sent up a towering, 30-meter (100-foot) ash cloud and blocked power lines with its eruption Sunday, paralysing the province of East Nusa Tenggara, which is more than 1,600 kilometers east of the capital, Jakarta.

Over 1,000 members of the military and police and more than 1,200 civilians were taking part in the search for bodies.

Authorities have also moved residents living up to 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the eruption site.

East Nusa Tenggara’s governor, Balip Punnakanta, was escorted in the early afternoon to visit the volcano, which looks like a sunflower and sets in a fertile region.

Balip said that his troops would not return for a week, or even longer, unless the volcano and surroundings calmed down.

“We’re monitoring,” he said. “We are not keeping up with this volcano anymore.”

Communication Minister Rudiantara said the government had ordered banks and markets to remain closed for the next five days.

He said the decision would ensure people have enough food.

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