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Death toll from volcano eruption in Indonesia rises to 43

A rescue worker searches for missing people on Dec. 8, 2021, at an area affected by the eruption of Mt. Semeru in East Java Province, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of National Search and Rescue Agency)(Kyodo)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- The death toll from Saturday's eruption of a volcano on the main island of Java rose to 43 on Thursday amid ongoing rescue operations, while 13 people remain missing, Indonesia's disaster agency said.

    The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said around 6,500 people have been displaced and some 3,000 houses damaged by the eruption of Mt. Semeru in East Java Province.

    A spokesman of the agency, Abdul Muhari, said the search and rescue team will continue to look for the missing by focusing on two most-affected villages near the volcano.

    But rescuers are struggling in searching for residents who could be buried under the volcanic debris as damaged roads have hindered heavy machinery from entering the affected areas, according to Col. Irwan Subekti, commander of the emergency response coordinating post for the disaster.

    "Search and rescue efforts, as well as cleaning up the affected areas, were stopped for some moments (today) after visual reports showed thick, white clouds of ash went down to the west and southwest slopes," Muhari said.

    East Java Gov. Khofifah Indar Parawansa has called on people not to approach the surrounding area of Mt. Semeru as it is still emitting volcanic ash, as many local tourists came to take selfies.

    Hot ash from the 3,676-meter-high volcano's eruption had reached an area as far as 11 kilometers from the crater near its peak, leaving devastation in its wake.

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