KARO, Indonesia – Crumbling houses. Vehicles overgrown by vegetation. Dusty kitchen utensils. A cassette recorder caked with volcanic ash.
This is all that's left of the "ghost" villages abandoned five years ago when Indonesia's Mount Sinabung erupted a few kilometers (miles) away after 400 years of silence. Farms and homes once lovingly tended now serve as eerie reminders of the volcano's power.
Sinabung caught scientists and everyone else by surprise when it sprang to life in 2010. The 2,460-meter (8,070-foot) volcano has been erupting sporadically ever since, killing 17 people in an eruption early last year and burying the villages of Bekerah in 2013 and Suka Meriah in 2014. Residents of six other villagers were also forced to abandon their homes.
All told, more than 30,000 people had to evacuate after a 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) area around the volcano was declared too dangerous to inhabit, and today 6,200 people remain in temporary shelters set up by the local government or are staying with relatives while waiting to be relocated to new homes.
The Associated Press returned for a look at how nature is slowly reclaiming the villages. The haunting photos reflect how quickly life there stopped when the volcano erupted and everyone was evacuated.
Mount Sinabung is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.