Survivors recount the deadly eruption of Mount Marapi

On a weekend hiking trip up Mount Marapi in West Sumatra, Indonesia, a group of friends experienced a deadly turn of events when the volcano suddenly erupted, leaving 23 people dead and several others with severe burns. The survivors recount their harrowing escape from the “Mountain of Fire” and raise questions about the lack of warning signs and clear instructions for hikers.

The group of 18 friends, most of whom were experienced mountaineers, had planned this expedition for over a month. Marapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes standing at 2,891m, seemed like a sensible option as it was close to their city and they had easy access to the base camp. Little did they know that their adventure would turn into a fight for survival.

The group arrived at Marapi’s base camp on Friday and began their ascent early the next day. Despite encountering heavy rain and poor weather conditions, they remained determined and reached the peak on Saturday. The incredible views and the possibility of witnessing a beautiful sunset tempted them to stay longer, but eventually, they decided to start their descent early.

As they made their way down the mountain, the ground began to shake. The hikers quickly realized something was wrong and started running downhill to avoid inhaling ash and getting hit by falling rocks. Some sustained injuries, including broken fingers and fractures. They sought shelter behind large rocks and navigated treacherous terrain in an attempt to reach safety.

The survivors’ determination to save themselves and their fellow hikers drove them forward. They communicated with the National Search and Rescue Agency, which instructed them to wait at a designated spot to be picked up. On their way down, they also encountered two female hikers and provided them with assistance. Finally, after five hours of uncertainty and fear, the rescuers arrived.

While most of the hikers were evacuated and received medical treatment, questions were raised about the lack of warning signs and clear instructions for hikers. Marapi has been on high alert since 2011, with a 3km radius restriction from the peak. However, the hikers interviewed by the BBC were unaware of these restrictions.

Experts suggest that the death toll could have been minimized if hikers were prohibited from lingering close to the crater. Officials argue that warning signs were installed, but hikers ignored them. There are also concerns about inadequate hiking requirements and climbers underestimating the dangers posed by the volcano.

The survivors and the families of the victims are left traumatized by the events. While grateful for their own lives, they mourn the loss of their friends and question their ability to save them. The experience has deeply affected them, and they have decided to refrain from mountain climbing for the foreseeable future.

This tragic incident highlights the need for improved safety measures and better communication between authorities and hikers. Hiking permits should have clearer requirements, and hikers must be educated about the potential dangers they may face. Warning signs should be more visible and enforceable to ensure the safety of those venturing into active volcanic areas.

As we reflect on this devastating event, let us remember the lives lost and the lessons learned. Nature’s beauty can sometimes be deceptive, and it is our responsibility to stay informed, prepared, and cautious when exploring such environments. Only through careful planning and adherence to safety guidelines can we ensure that other adventurers do not meet a similar fate.