News / Asia

Indonesia's Most Active Volcano Stirs Fear and Anger

Indonesia's Mount Merapi looms over the surrounding villages. Even on a clear day the smoke that shoots from its summit is intimidating, 01 Nov. 2010.
Indonesia's Mount Merapi looms over the surrounding villages. Even on a clear day the smoke that shoots from its summit is intimidating, 01 Nov. 2010.

The sounds of children playing in emergency shelters at the base of Indonesia's Mount Merapi are a welcome break from the explosions heard hours earlier.  

Earlier in the day, panic ensued after a series of eruptions rained ash and debris down on villages as far as six kilometers from the volcano's crater. The clouds of hot gas billowed from Merapi for nearly three hours, stirring fears that the volcano's wrath is far from finished.

One week after the volcano first came to life, more than 38 people have been killed and 70,000 confined to emergency shelters.  Morale in the camps is low, and many refugees say they pine for home.

Male evacuees make the best of their circumstances, but many say they're bored at the shelters already
Male evacuees make the best of their circumstances, but many say they're bored at the shelters already

All are aware of the dangers of returning.  But many go back to check on their homes and cattle during the day, at times when the volcano is most calm. The head of the mobile brigade near the Umbulharjo evacuation center, Dodik Slamet, is charged with seeing who goes in and out of the evacuation checkpoint.  His job is to ensure people are safe, he says, but he also cannot prevent them from protecting their livelihoods.

There are still many cattle there and the cattle are peoples' only treasure, says Dodik Slamet.  He cannot prohibit people from returning to their homes, he says, because if they do not go back, the cattle will die.

Trucks and motorbikes with grass strapped to the back are the only vehicles that ply the dust-covered road past Umbulharjo.  Refugees there moved to a rescue shelter further down the volcano after an eruption Saturday caused concern that debris might reach the safety zone.

More than 2,000 refugees are staying nearby, at the Kepuharjo evacuation shelter.  Rescue workers say supplies are adequate, but they are having trouble with sanitation.  Doctors worry about the spread of disease as children get colds and eye infections.

Some of the women and children having been living here for a week.  They say they are bored, and have too much time to think about the homes they know have been destroyed.

Ibu Parmi sits with friends at Kapuharjo evacuation shelter in Indonesia.
Ibu Parmi sits with friends at Kapuharjo evacuation shelter in Indonesia.

Fifty-year-old Parmi says she is glad to have her health, but she cannot stop thinking about all that she has lost.  Everything at my home is gone, she says.  Parmi thanks God she still has her family together, but says she does not know how she can go back.  She says she fears returning to a home  that is not livable.

The eruptions could continue for weeks, say government volcanologists, since the volcano has not released all the pressure built up beneath a lava dome in its crater.  And that fact could strain the government's ability to care for all the refugees, particularly since it must also provide aid to victims of a tsunami that struck off the coast of west Sumatra just one day before Merapi erupted.

The death toll from the tsunami stands at more than 430 dead with another 15,000 homeless.  The number missing dropped to less than 100 after many were found alive by search and rescue teams during the weekend.

But rough weather continues to prevent aid from getting to the remote Mentawai Islands, and many in need of immediate medical care cannot be evacuated.  Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Mount Merapi is one of nearly 200 active volcanoes on this vast island nation.  The latest eruption is the volcano's third in two decades, but those who remember the 1994 blast that killed 60 people say this one is worse.  With searing gas continuing to speed down the mountain, they say they fear they fear what is to come.

You May Like

Nearly 900 Dead, Missing in 2014 Air Disasters

Southeast Asia took a particularly heavy hit; 3 major events involved weather, two planes were shot down in eastern Ukraine, and one crash was attributed to mechanical problems More

Video Islamic State Emergence Transformed Syria, Iraq in 2014

'It was very clear that there were problems building up in Iraq at the end of 2013 but everybody was distracted by Syria,' says one expert, explaining group's rapid rise More

Rights Group: IS Executed Nearly 2,000 in Syria in 6 Months

Islamist group also killed 120 of its own members, most foreign fighters trying to return home, in past two months, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaisei
X
Daniel Schearf
December 25, 2014 4:34 PM
Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video 2014 Saw Intensification of Boko Haram Insurgency

The year 2014 saw Nigerian militant sect Boko Haram intensify its five-year insurgency and target civilians in large numbers as it seized territory in the northeast. The kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Chibok in April sparked global outrage, but failed to become the turning point against the sect that Nigeria’s president said it would be. The picture at year's end is one of devastation and uncertainty. VOA’s Anne Look reports.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Fight to Survive Water Crisis

In a region choking from dwindling water supplies, Lebanon has long been regarded as one of the few places where there is enough. But in recent years, half the people in the country have faced severe shortages. And the more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are hit the worst by the water crisis, making the country's most vulnerable people increasingly impoverished and sick. Heather Murdock reports for VOA in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid