At least 14 people have died after a volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra spewed lava and hot gas.
“It is likely we’ll find more victims,” Benny Kaban, a local Protestant minister and aid worker, said by telephone on Saturday.
Most of the 14 victims died in a village less than 3km from the peak of Mount Sinabung, said Asren Nasution, head of the local disaster management agency.
“They should not have been in that area,” he said. “It has been off-limits to residents.”
The government last month extended the exclusion zone from 5km to 7km, but on Friday, the National Disaster Management Agency said residents living in 16 villages farther than 5km from the peak were allowed to return to their homes after a lull in Sinabung’s activity.
Ulya Ginting, one of the residents who had fled, told Metro TV that he had returned to his mountainside village with his father-in-law and local officials when the volcano belched hot ash and rocks.
“Our house and field have been destroyed, so when officials offered to renovate our house, we came with them to see our village,” said Ginting, whose father-in-law was injured in the eruption.
He said many people were ascending the volcano to check on the condition of their homes and farms and those who had gone before him were unlikely to have survived.
The Disaster Management Agency said rescuers halted the search for more victims as of 7pm local time because of difficult terrain and fears of more eruptions.
Sinabung in North Sumatra’s Karo district has been erupting since September, displacing more than 30,000 people.
The 2460-metre volcano had been dormant for 400 years before it erupted in August 2010.