A rescue helicopter crashed while heading to evacuate residents near an active volcano on Indonesia’s main island, killing all eight people on board, officials said yesterday.
The helicopter crashed about three minutes before arriving at Dieng Plateau, the popular tourist area where a volcanic eruption on Sunday injured 10 people.
The aircraft reportedly hit a cliff on Butak Mountain in Central Java Province’s Temanggung District.
All eight people on board were killed, said Major General Heronimus Guru, deputy operations chief of the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency.
“We are now at the Bhayangkara Hospital in Semarang,” the provincial capital where the victims’ bodies were taken, he said.
The victims were four navy officers and four rescuers, Brigadier General Ivan Tito, director of operation and training at the agency, told TV One in a live interview from Temanggung.
The Indonesian-made Dauphin AS365 helicopter was airworthy, he added.
The Sileri Crater at Dieng Plateau spewed cold lava, mud and ash as high as 50m into the air when it erupted on Sunday morning, Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
The sudden eruption occurred while about 17 visitors were around the crater. Ten people were injured and were treated at a hospital.
Soldiers and police officers were dispatched and local residents and visitors were asked to evacuate in case of further eruptions, Nugroho said.
Sileri is the most active and dangerous among about 10 craters at Dieng Plateau. Its most recent eruption was in 2009, when it unleashed volcanic materials up to 200m high and triggered the creation of three new craters.
Sileri area head of culture and tourism Dwi Suryanto said the crater was quiet yesterday, but remains closed to visitors.
Other craters on the plateau are still open, he added.
Dieng Plateau in Banjarnegara District is a popular tourist attraction because of its cool climate and ninth-century Hindu temples. It sits about 2,000m above sea level.
About 142 people were reportedly asphyxiated in 1979 when the volcano spewed gases.
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