These 'ghost villages' in Indonesia are all that remain after years of eruptions from the volcanic Mount Sinabung

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn abandoned church in Sinabung, Indonesia.
  • In 2010, in the Karo district of Sumatra, Indonesia, Mount Sinabung erupted for the first time in 400 years.
  • The massive blast of lava and resulting ash forced all villagers in the surrounding areas to leave their homes.
  • Since 2010, Mount Sinabung has remained active, and had its deadliest eruption in 2014. As lava and ash continue to be a threat, entire towns have remained abandoned, creating “ghost villages”.
  • These eerie photos show the lives left behind in the places the government no longer deems safe to live.

In Indonesia, there are 120 active volcanoes – Mount Sinabung is one of the most dangerous. After 400 years of dormancy, it sprang to life again in 2010. At least two villagers were killed and thousands more were displaced as the government declared the area too dangerous to inhabit.

However, some villagers, without anywhere else to go, returned to their homes. In 2014, the volcano had its deadliest eruption, killing at least 16 villagers as it spewed lava and ash into the air. Following this eruption, the government deemed anywhere with in a 4.3 mile radius of the volcano too dangerous to live.

Though the volcano was relatively quiet between 2010 and 2013, following its eruption in 2014 it has remained highly active. Most villagers never returned to their homes, and the towns of Sinabung, Mardinding, and Karo have become “ghost villages,” covered in ash and populated more by passing animals than humans.

Take a look at the eerie photos of the once bustling centres below the volatile Mount Sinabung.


Mount Sinabung was dormant for 400 years before its eruption in August, 2010, according to The Atlantic.

Tibta Pangin:Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesA Mount Sinabung eruption on June 9, 2019.

Source: The Atlantic


Though there was a brief quiet period following Sinabung’s eruption in 2010, it became highly active again in 2013 and has remained so ever since.

Jefta Images/Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAshes spew from Mount Sinabung.

Source: Phys.org


After each of Sinabung’s largest eruptions in 2014 and 2018, much of the surrounding area was decimated by lava, according to a map created by NASA.

Ivan Damanik:NurPhoto via Getty ImagesMount Sinabung’s eruption destroyed everything in its path.

Source: NASA


Nearly 30,000 villagers were told by the government that all homes that existed within a 3.4 kilometre radius of the volcano were too dangerous to live in.

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesA puppy in front of an abandoned home in Mardinding village.

Source: The Atlantic


Thousands of displaced families became refugees, and were forced to relocate to government and community sponsored housing.

Ivan Damanik: AFP via Getty ImageA woman and her son in Karo, Indonesia, look on as Mount Sinabung erupts.

Source: The Atlantic


Following the mass exodus, many of the towns became entirely abandoned.

Sabirin Manurung: Pacific Press: LightRocket via Getty ImagesGurukinayan Village in North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Boarded up homes near the mountain have an eerie appearance, waiting to ultimately crumble from years of neglect.

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn abandoned house below Mount Sinabung in Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Churches and community centres can no longer serve their purposes as meeting places.

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn abandoned church in Sinabung, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


A traveller walks through an abandoned commercial building below Mount Sinabung, which is already succumbing to the elements.

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn abandoned commercial building below Mount Sinabung.

Source: The Atlantic


Mardinding village, which sits at the foot of Mount Sinabung, in Karo, Indonesia, has been largely uninhabited since 2014.

Ulet Ifansasti:Getty Images.The abandoned Mardinding village in Karo, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


In many places, nature has started to overtake the man-made.

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn abandoned home and storefront in Sinabung, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Cars have also begun to crumble and be overtaken by nature.

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn abandoned car in Sinabung, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Storefronts can be seen with missing ceiling planks and crumbling woodwork.

Keow Wee Loong: Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesAn old storefront in Sinabung, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


And these dogs have taken over this old storefront, which features a smiling Mickey Mouse.

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesDogs sit in front of an abandoned house in Mardinding village, less than three kilometers from Mount Sinabung.

Source: The Atlantic


In this home, “Allah Huakbar” is written in the dust in an abandoned kitchen. It is a common phrase in Islam meaning “God is great”.

Ivan Damanik:NurPhoto via Getty ImagesA home covered in ash in Karo, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Many homes retain much of the furniture they had before all the villagers fled.

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesA chair in Sigarang Garang village, in Karo, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Kitchen items, like this strainer, have been left behind as villagers hurried to evacuate their homes.

Jefta Images:Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesA strainer covered with dry volcanic ash from Mount Sinabung.

Source: The Atlantic


In many of the “ghost villages” animals are more common than humans, like these two cats napping on an ash-covered bag.

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesCats sit in front of an abandoned home in Karo, Indonesia in 2014.

Source: The Atlantic


Kitchen appliances and dishware give light to the people that once lived in these homes.

Jefta Images : Barcroft Media via Getty ImagesKitchen appliances covered in ash in Karo, Indonesia.

Source: The Atlantic


Shoes sit covered in ash and dust, left behind from villagers fleeing imminent danger.

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty ImagesShoes left behind and covered in ash from Mount Sinabung.

Source: The Atlantic

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