KARO, Indonesia: Fourteen people, including four schoolchildren, were killed Saturday after they were engulfed in scorching ash clouds spat out by Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung in its biggest eruption in recent days, officials said. Dark, searing clouds rolling down the mountain left apocalyptic scenes of ash-covered bodies scattered by a roadside in Sukameriah village, just 2.7 km from the volcano’s crater, an AFP witness who helped with the evacuation said.
Officials fear there could be more fatalities from Saturday’s eruptions, but due to the high potential of lethal heat clouds spewing from the mountain, a search and rescue mission has been grounded, officials said.
“We suspect there are more victims but we cannot recover them because the victims are in the path of the hot (ash) clouds,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.
All 14 bodies have been identified. Four of them were high school students on a sightseeing trip to the volcano on the western island of Sumatra, he added.“What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?” he said in response to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who earlier said Ukraine must be free to choose its own future, a future which lay in Europe.
“Why don’t we hear condemnation of those who seize and hold government buildings, attack the police, torture police, use racist and anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?” Lavrov said.
EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton is due to visit Kiev again next week, having previously met the government and opposition figures several times there to call for a peaceful dialogue.
Other prominent figures have also been frequent visitors to Kiev, drawing a strong government and Russian response although Lavrov’s remarks Saturday were unusually blunt in comparison.
Describing the situation in Ukraine as raising “fundamental questions” about EU-Russia relations, he said that in this case “a choice is being imposed.”
Europe’s future should “not be about new spheres of influence… it should be about how all countries” cooperate in the interest of all, he said.
The EU and Russia have been at loggerheads over Ukraine since President Viktor Yanukovych ditched an EU association accord in November under pressure from a Moscow seen to be trying to bring its former Soviet satellite back into the fold.
Yanukovych’s decision sparked off massive anti-government protests, which turned increasingly violent last month after he rushed through a series of curbs on protests.
The move only prompted an escalation of the violence on the streets and the president then cancelled them and accepted the resignation of the government.
Ukraine is a major talking point at the Munich Security Conference and top opposition leaders were due later Saturday to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry amid concern about possible military intervention in Kiev.
The prospect of that meeting may have especially infuriated Russia, coming as the White House said it was consulting with Congress over possible sanctions on Ukraine.