"The avalanche of hot smoke from Mount Sinabung has again claimed lives," the head of public relations and information data center of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, informed in a press release received here on Saturday.
Based on initial data from the local disaster mitigation agency (BPBD), seven people were affected by the hot smoke, of which three died and four others were in a critical condition.
The search and rescue team was able to evacuate the victims to the hospital. Several homes were gutted due to the hot smoke.
Sutopo said efforts would continue on Sunday morning to look for any more victims, depending upon how active the mountain is.
The victims are villagers of Gamber in the sub-district of Simpang Empat, Karo District, who were caught unawares while working in the field.
The village is located within a four kilometer radius from the top of the mountain and was supposed to be uninhabited and left vacant as it falls in the red zone (danger zone).
Most Gamber villagers had evacuated a long time ago and were resettled at a new location.
For the time being, the villagers were given land on rent for farming and also rented houses to stay to prevent them from conducting farming activities in their former village.
However, some of them ignored the ban and braved danger to conduct farming in the danger zone, Sutopo explained.
Sutopo pointed out that the chief of the BNPB, Willem Rampangilei, has ordered the BNPBs quick reaction team to immediately leave for Karo to accompany the local officials and deal with the emergency situation.
"The chief of the Karo district military command, as the commander of the emergency response team, must coordinate the search and rescue efforts, tighten surveillance and patrolling so that the red zone is really clear of any activity," he elaborated.
Mount Sinabung was currently displaying intense activity after it spewed hot smoke at 14.28 hours pm, 15.08, 16.39 and 16.48p as far as 4.5 kilometers away reaching Lao Borus river westward.
The volcanic ash billowed up to three thousand meters high and the mountain is still under an alert status with eruption potential remained high and could happen at any time.
People living along the rivers that come from Sinabung must be alert against possible lava flows, Sutopo said.
"People and visitors/tourists are not allowed to conduct any activity within a radius of three kilometers from the mountains top. People living in the south and southeast sector are also prohibited to get as near as seven kilometers from the mountains top while those in north and northeast sectors are prohibited to get as near as four kilometers from the mountains top," he added. (*)