The death toll in the Mount Semeru volcano eruption in Indonesia’s Java island rose to at least 34 on Tuesday with rescue operations still underway, according to the country’s disaster management agency.
Mount Semeru, situated in the Lumajang district of East Java province, spewed thick columns of ash more than 12,000 metres (40,000 feet) into the sky Saturday, leaving entire streets filled with mud and ash, swallowing homes and vehicles in several villages.
At least 17 people are still reported to be missing, as thick mud and debris are hampering search efforts, while rescuers have been searching for survivors.
Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes following the catastrophic eruption.
At least 11 villages and one bridge have been swallowed by searing lava flowing down from the volcano, preventing rescuers from accessing the area.
With gases spewing as high as one kilometer into the sky, the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island remains active since Saturday, making rescue a dangerous operation.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo had ordered a rapid emergency response to find victims on Saturday but evacuations and rescue searches were temporarily suspended on Sunday due to ash clouds, according to Indonesia's Metro TV.
The volcano has wreaked havoc for the island’s residents as officials have advised locals not to travel within five kilometres of the mountain’s crates.
Indonesian President visited the area on Tuesday and promised to help relocate homes that are threatened by the volcano.
“Earlier I got a report (that) there are around 2,000 houses that must be relocated," he was quoted as saying by Metro TV.
"I hope after things calm down we can start both fixing infrastructures and think about the possibility of relocation from areas we believe to be dangerous," he added.
Indonesia sits on the “Ring of Fire” that encircles the Pacific Ocean and the archipelagic country is home to more than 127 active volcanoes.
The country is prone to volcanic activity. In 2018, more than 400 people were killed in a volcanic eruption between two Indonesian Islands that caused an underwater landslide and tsunami.