The death toll from the Semeru volcano eruption has risen to 34 as thousands of people become displaced and 17 remain missing, according to the disaster mitigation agency.

The disaster swallowed entire homes and vehicles, blanketing villages like Curah Kobokan in grey ash and leaving residents terrified of returning home.
The disaster swallowed entire homes and vehicles, blanketing villages like Curah Kobokan in grey ash and leaving residents terrified of returning home. (Antara Foto via Reuters)

The death toll from the eruption of Indonesia's Mount Semeru volcano has risen to 34 as aid has been rushed to the affected region.

"The latest update from the ground... (is) 34 people died, 17 are missing," Indonesia's national disaster agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said.

Almost 3,700 have been evacuated from the affected area, he added.

There were three small eruptions on Tuesday, each spewing ash around a kilometre (3,300 ft) into the sky as the death toll rose according to authorities.

After visiting evacuation centres and surveying the area by helicopter, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said recovery efforts would be bolstered now and in the months ahead.

"I came to the site to ensure that we have the forces to locate the victims," said the president, speaking from Sumberwuluh, one of the worst-hit areas.

READ MORE: Fresh activity at Indonesia volcano hampers rescue operations

Thousands flee their homes

Rescuers have been battling dangerous conditions since the eruption began on Saturday, searching for survivors and bodies in the volcanic debris, wrecked buildings and destroyed vehicles.

Search crews deployed dogs on Tuesday to aid the operation.

The biggest mountain on the island of Java ejected a mushroom of volcanic ash high into the sky and rained hot mud on Saturday as thousands of panicked people fled their homes.

The disaster left entire streets filled with mud and ash, swallowing homes and vehicles.

Mt Semeru has remained active since Saturday, with small eruptions keeping emergency workers and area residents on edge.

Officials have advised locals not to travel within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of Semeru's crater, as the nearby air is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity, and the country has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

READ MORE: Indonesia volcano death toll mounts as rescuers search for survivors

Source: TRTWorld and agencies