Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano erupted with renewed ferocity on Friday, killing another 39 people and blanketing the surrounding area with ash.
Ten days of eruptions have now killed more than 80 people and forced the evacuation of more than 75,000 people.
Mount Merapi, on the outskirts of Yogyakarta city in Central Java, began spewing deadly clouds of ash and superheated gas last week.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the director of disaster risk reduction at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the death toll had climbed significantly in the last 24 hours.
“Because of today’s eruption, we found 39 bodies, so the total death toll is 83, and another 66 have been injured, so the total number of injured is 185 people,” he told Reuters.
A column of ash billowed at least 4 km above the crater of Mount Merapi as worried authorities evacuated villages within a 20 km radius of the volcano, said the country’s top vulcanologist, Surono.
“It’s much worse than in the past. We cannot predict its behavior,” he said.
A Reuters photographer near the volcano said he saw blackened burn victims being carried into the Sardjito hospital on Friday morning.
“Their clothes had melted onto their skin,” he said.
The air in Yogykarta is now so thick with ash that motorists must drive with their headlights on during the day, he said.
“We can’t see anything, it’s very dark. The trees are all white with ash,” he said. “It’s like it’s raining sand.”
Indonesia is also struggling with the aftermath of a tsunami in the remote Mentawai islands off Sumatra last week that killed at least 431. Reuters