Rescuers racing to find hikers missing after a deadly volcano eruption in Indonesia have found more bodies, raising the number of confirmed and presumed dead to 23.
More than 50 climbers were rescued after Sunday’s eruption before search operations were temporarily halted on Monday as Mount Marapi started spewing smoke and ash again.
About 75 people were heading up the 2,891m (9,485 ft) volcano at the time of the eruption.
The bodies of five climbers were discovered near the eruption site, and a further 18 are presumed dead, said Edi Mardianto, deputy police chief in West Sumatra province, on Tuesday.
“We expect they are no longer alive,” he said.
“The team will evacuate and take them to the hospital tomorrow or today to be identified.”
A video released by West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency showed rescuers evacuating an injured climber on a stretcher off the mountain and into a waiting ambulance to be taken to hospital.
The volcano erupted in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province and video showed thick columns of ash reaching up to two miles high, blanketing nearby roads and villages.
Mount Marapi is one of the region’s most active volcanoes and also erupted between January and February.
Its sudden eruptions are difficult to detect because the source is shallow and near the peak, and they are not caused by deep movement of magma, which sets off tremors that register on seismic monitors.
Its most deadly eruption was in April 1979, when 60 people were killed.
It has been at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011 – indicating above-normal volcanic activity, prohibiting climbers and villagers within 1.8 miles of the peak, according to Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.
Climbers have only been allowed below the danger zone, registering at two command posts or online.
However, local officials acknowledged many people may have climbed higher than permitted and residents also could have been in the area, making the number of people stranded by the eruption impossible to confirm.
Mount Marapi is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” – an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.