Mt. Semeru: Volcanic rescuers face tragic mission

Driving through mud and ash, Dodik Suryadiawan is on a mission.

Alongside his team, he is searching for the human remains of those killed in last week’s volcanic eruption in East Java, Indonesia.

The 36-year-old is part of a volunteer search and rescue squad working in one of the worst-hit areas in the foothills of Mount Semeru.

Among the victims, Dodik retrieved the body of a mother cradling her child.

"I feel very sorry, especially when I try to imagine the hot ash falling, imagine the feeling and screams of a mother who tried to calm her child by cuddling her child. That is very sad. I couldn't stand to see the corpse of a mother hugging her burnt child, I was really sad. Even yesterday (December 6) we found a mother hugging with her two children, I can’t imagine what they went through when they were trapped and surrounded by hot air."

Since the eruption began on Saturday (December 4), Dodik has been using his personal four-wheel drive on a daily basis to reach the areas in need of assistance.

Using heavy equipment and shovels, he and his party are working with the government's search team.

Near the village of Curah Kobokan, they are combing through land where houses and a sand mine company used to stand.

Thousands have been displaced and at least 34 people have been killed.

Across the area, the search and rescue operation has been complicated by poor weather conditions, including wind, rain, and limited equipment in some areas.

There is also concern over the potential for further flows of hot gas, ash, and rocks.

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