Indonesia: CAFOD scales up response to volcano

Many of those affected now fear an even bigger blast or an earthquake could follow, as happened in 2006 when Mt Merapi last erupted.

Mt Merapi (Fire Mountain) is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. According to energy and Mineral resources Ministry geology chief R. Sukhyar, this is Mt Merapi’s worst eruption in the last 100 years, referring to the scale of activity and the size of the volcano’s exclusion zone. A heat of 750 degree Celsius was reported in the surrounding area.

Molten lava and toxic gas have left communities at serious risk of numerous health issues including burns, breathing difficulties and eye problems. The number of people affected has risen dramatically since the first eruption on Tuesday 26 October with 100,000 people being evacuated within a 20km range.

More than 100 people are reported dead. The nearest city of Yogyakarta is covered in ash and the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned the entire city may have to be evacuated.

Vital relief

CAFOD’s programme manager for Indonesia Dini Widiastuti is in Jakarta. She said: “The situation has deteriorated dramatically with villages across two provinces suffering the effects. The scenes are chaotic with people fleeing to safe sites in schools and sports stadiums.

“CAFOD has pledged £30,000 to support our partner Karina Kas, who is distributing food, as well as face masks, goggles, tarpaulins and blankets to displaced communities in seven parishes in Sleman, Magelan and Klaten districts. They are also helping to deal with the psychological traumas created by the disaster.

“Karina Kas is working alongside Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia, as well as other Caritas networks and through seven local parishes, to ensure people’s immediate needs are met.

“We’re very proud of our inter-faith cooperation and coordination. We’re constantly assessing the risks and needs of affected families whilst also planning support once the immediate disaster is over. Thousands of people have lost their homes, fields and livestock and will take some time to rebuild their lives.”

Indonesia is faced with a double disaster as just 24 hours before Mt Merapi first erupted on Tuesday 26 October, a tsunami struck the Mentawai islands off the western coast of Sumatra. Caritas Indonesia aid workers have travelled the long distance by boat to the remote Mentawai Islands to distribute vital emergency supplies, including blankets, jerry cans and tarpaulins.

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