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Indonesian officials continue to halt Sinabung rescue efforts

 It has been two days since Indonesian search and rescue officials halted their recovery efforts to find more victims after Mount Sinabung's deadly ash clouds claimed 16 lives. The volcano remains unstable and high volcanic activities have prevented recovery efforts from continuing.

NORTH SUMATRA: It has been two days since Indonesian search and rescue officials halted their recovery efforts to find more victims after Mount Sinabung's deadly ash clouds claimed 16 lives.

A joint task force assigned to handle emergency response attempted to resume evacuation efforts early on Wednesday, but they are now faced with a major hurdle that is hampering their work.

Volcanologists had suggested they cancel their attempts after detecting high volcanic activity.

Mount Sinabung continued to spew ash clouds that go up several kilometres into the sky and volcanologists have detected an increase in tremors on their seismographs.

The volcano remains unstable and high volcanic activity has prevented recovery efforts from continuing.

Putra Sebayang, a resident of neighbouring Batu Karang village, said he was lucky to come out safe and sound after he joined an evacuation team last Saturday.

Sebayang said: "I wanted to help because I heard that there was possibly someone from Batu Karang village among the dead. I found 10 victims at the location past the site where the first evacuation team found four bodies.

"I saw many of the bodies covered by tree branches and ash. Some were still asking for help before they died. I also found several motorbikes in the area."

The victims’ bodies were immediately brought to a nearby hospital.

The military commander leading the emergency response teams said he has taken steps to ensure the safety of other people taking part in evacuation efforts.

Lieutenant Colonel Asep Sukarno, head of the Sinabung emergency response team, said: "We formed an advance team who will start the evacuation process. This team is a small group consisting of seven people whose task is to anticipate if the situation on the ground poses a threat.

“If we send in too many people it would be risky for the security personnel. So the advance team will enter first and assess the situation."

The Sinabung emergency response teams are now relying heavily on expert advice from volcanologists at the Volcano Monitoring Post before deciding on resuming operations.  

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