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34 dead in Indonesia, 16 missing, after Sumatra struck by floods, volcanic material

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At least 34 people have died and 16 more were missing after flash floods and cold lava flow from a volcano hit western Indonesia, a local disaster official said Sunday.

The disaster hit two districts in West Sumatra province on Saturday evening after hours of heavy rain caused flooding and sent sweeping ash and large rocks down Mount Marapi, the most active volcano on the archipelago’s Sumatra island.

“Until now our data shows that 34 people died: 16 in Agam and 18 in Tanah Datar. At least 18 others are injured. We are also still searching for 16 other people,” West Sumatra disaster agency spokesman Ilham Wahab told AFP.

He said the search effort involved local rescuers, police, soldiers and volunteers.

Agam and Tanah Datar districts were hit at around 10:30pm on Saturday, according to Basarnas search and rescue agency.

Earlier, Basarnas said 12 people had died including several children after the flash floods and cold lava flow.

Rescuers put the body of a victim of a flash flood on a gurney at a community health centre in West Sumatra on Sunday. Photo: AP

Cold lava, also known as lahar, is volcanic material like ash, sand and pebbles carried down a volcano’s slopes by rain.

About 370,000 people live in Tanah Datar, where several mosques and a public pool were damaged, with large rocks and logs scattered on the ground, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

In Lembah Anai, a popular tourist spot with a waterfall in Tanah Datar, a road connecting the cities of Padang and Bukittinggi was severely damaged and access for cars was cut off.

Aerial images seen by AFP of Tanah Datar showed roads covered by mud, with roofs and a mosque’s minarets jutting out of the sea of brown mud.

Nine bodies were identified earlier on Sunday, including those of a three-year-old and eight-year-old, officials said.

Authorities dispatched a team of rescuers and rubber boats to look for the missing and to transport people to shelters.

The local government set up evacuation centres and emergency posts in several areas of the two affected districts.

Indonesia is prone to landslides and floods during the rainy season.

In March at least 26 people were found dead after landslides and floods hit West Sumatra.

In December, Marapi erupted and spewed an ash tower 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) into the sky, taller than the volcano itself.

At least 24 climbers, most of them university students, died in the eruption.

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