At least seven farmers have died and two more have been added to those who are in critical condition following the eruption of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra, Indonesia on May 21.
All the fatalities were from the village of Gamber (also spelled Gember) in Karo Regency in the highly populated province in Western Indonesia. It was declared a red zone when the volcano began spewing hot clouds of ash that reached up to 2 miles high at 9:48 a.m. GMT on Saturday.
According to an Indonesian disaster agency official, search and rescue teams comprising the Indonesian police, military, the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), the Indonesian Red Cross and the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPPD) continue to scour the area for other survivors and those needing aid.
The bodies of the deceased, as well as those who sustained severe burns and other injuries, have been taken to Efarina Etaham hospital in Kebanjehe, also in Karo Regency.
According to reports, all seven of the deceased were working on their farms in Gamber Village.
The village was included in a 4-kilometer (2.48-mile) radius danger zone set by local officials ever since Mount Sinabung began showing signs of activity back in Oct. 31, 2014. That same year was the last time the volcano had a major eruption and more than a dozen people were killed. It also erupted in 2010, and before that its last significant activity was four centuries ago.
In 2015, Mt. Rinjani also erupted, causing many tourists to be stranded in Bali.
Although the area was supposed to have been empty, many believe that some stayed behind to tend to their farms because of economic reasons.
According to reports, more than 5,000 villagers within the danger zone were relocated to temporary shelters and were given annual allowances of $263 per family and farmland with a rental price of $145 each year. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) was reportedly still in the process of finding a permanent relocation area for the families of those from Gamber and others in the danger zone.
"It is not immediately clear how many people were in Gamber because when the mountain spewed clouds of hot ash, there was not supposed to be any activity in the area," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesperson for the BNPB.
Mount Sinabung is Indonesia's most active volcano. Experts believe it will continue to spew ash clouds and lava in the following days.