According to the national disaster agency, the death toll from the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Semeru volcano rose to 34 on Tuesday.
The mountain on the island of Java had thundered on Saturday, throwing out volcanic ash high into the sky and raining hot mud on villages as thousands of people fled their home.
Marzuki Suganda, a 30-year-old who works at a sand mine in the area said, “I’m traumatised, I asked my relatives if they were brave enough to go back to Curah Kobokan and they all said no; they’d rather sleep under a tree.
“When the eruption happened, I really thought I was going to die here.”
Since the eruption last weekend, rescuers have been facing threatening conditions while searching for survivors and remains in the volcanic debris, wrecked buildings and destroyed vehicles.
Search crews had also deployed dogs on Tuesday to aid the operation.
“The latest update from the ground… (is) 34 people died, 17 are missing,” the disaster agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that almost 3,700 have been evacuated from the affected area.
Officials have advised locals not to travel within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of Semeru’s crater, as the nearby air is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said during a trip to the area Tuesday that the government will look into moving homes away because of the threat posed by the volcano.
“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.
“Earlier I got a report (that) there are around 2,000 houses that must be relocated.”
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity, and the country has nearly 130 active volcanoes.