A rescue helicopter crashed while heading to help evacuate residents near an erupting volcano on Java, the main island of Indonesia, killing all eight people on board, officials said on Monday.
The helicopter reportedly hit a cliff about three minutes from arriving at Dieng Plateau, a popular tourist area where a volcanic crater erupted on Sunday, injuring at least 10 people.
The Indonesian-made Dauphin AS365 helicopter crashed at Butak Mountain in Candiroto subdistrict in Central Java province’s Temanggung district.
Ivan Tito, director of operation and training at the National Search and Rescue Agency, said the bodies of all the victims were taken to Police’s Bhayangkara Hospital in Central Java’s capital of Semarang.
“The helicopter was airworthy,” Tito told TVOne station in a live interview on Monday from Temanggung, the closest town to the crash site. “There were four crewmen, all navy officers and four rescuers on board the helicopter.”
The Sileri Crater at Dieng Plateau spewed cold lava, mud and ash as high as 50 metres into the sky when it erupted on Sunday morning, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
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 to the scene, while local residents and visitors were asked to evacuate the area in case of further eruptions, Nugroho said.
Sileri is the most active and dangerous among some 10 craters at Dieng Plateau. Its most recent eruption was in 2009 when it unleashed volcanic materials up to 200 metres high and triggered the creation of three new craters.
Dieng Plateau, located in the Central Java district of Banjarnegara, is a popular tourist attraction because of its cool climate and ninth-century Hindu temples. It sits about 2,000 metres above sea level.
Some 142 people were reportedly asphyxiated in 1979 when the volcano erupted, spewing gases.