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Death toll rises to 22 in Indonesia’s volcanic eruption, 27 missing

At least 22 people have been confirmed dead and 27 were still missing after the Semeru volcano in Indonesia's East Java province erupted at the weekend, the country's disaster agency said Tuesday.

At least 22 people have been confirmed dead and 27 were still missing after the Semeru volcano in Indonesia’s East Java province erupted at the weekend, the country’s disaster agency said Tuesday.

Most of the victims died after being hit by searing volcanic debris during Saturday’s eruption, with many burned beyond recognition, according to the National Disaster Management Agency.

Only 13 victims have been identified so far, it said.

The eruption sent villagers in Lumajang district fleeing their homes in terror as a huge column of smoke rose into the sky and searing molten rocks and gas barrelled down the slopes.

At least 68 people suffered burns caused by hot volcanic materials, local officials said.

Television footage showed ash from the volcano burying homes, with only their roofs remaining visible.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited the scene of the eruption on Tuesday, said about 2,000 families needed to be relocated after their homes were destroyed.

“We need to decide where they are going to be relocated and build new homes for them immediately,” he said.

Nearly 2,000 people have been displaced by the disaster. They received temporary shelter in mosques and government offices, among other locations, the agency said.

“This morning I came to the location to ensure that we do everything possible to find those still missing,” he said.

The nearly 3,700-metre volcano, part of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, has erupted several times since December last year.

It is the highest mountain on Java island, home to 145 million people.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area known for seismic upheaval, and has about 128 active volcanoes.

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