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Mount Merapi erupts, but nearby residents unmoved YOGYAKARTA - The 2,968-meter high Mount Merapi erupted at dawn on Saturday and continued spewing hot clouds of steam and fine ash throughout the day, but residents were undeterred despite the high alert warning announced by the government. The latest discharge of hot cloud took place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Antonius Ratdomo Purbo, head of the Section of Volcanic Technology and Methodology Development at the Yogyakarta-based Volcanic Technology and Research Development Station (BPPTK), said the change in the volcano's alert status to Awas Merapi (Beware Merapi) should be followed by the evacuation of residents living in areas considered at risk. According to Ratdomo, the hot clouds spurted by the volcano reached a distance of 6.5 kilometers along Kalisat River, six kilometers along Bebeng River, 4.5 kilometers along Lamat River and two kilometers along Senowo River.
Merapi is located between the regency of Magelang in Central Java and Yogyakarta. Ratdomo said that more than 16,000 people living in several villages on the southwestern slope of the volcano in the districts of Srumbung and Dukun, Magelang regency, should have moved to safer ground. "There is no change in the form of the volcano's lava dome, therefore the southwestern slope is still the most dangerous area."
Soon after the eruption, district officials looked busy preparing for the possible evacuation of Merapi residents, while the residents, on the contrary, performed their daily task as usual. Reports said almost 600 people of the Sumberrejo and Kaliurang Utara villages in Srumbung district sought refuge following the early morning eruption.
"But they returned to their homes in the afternoon, braving further eruptions," Dul Kamid, chief of the Srumbung district neighborhood security, told The Jakarta Post. "Only elderly people remain at the refugee site at the Kaliurang village hall," Dul Kamid added. Another resident of Tunggul Arum village on the southwestern slope said, "This morning we were about to leave but we are no longer afraid after realizing that the eruption was not followed by a thundering sound or a flash of lightning." He was interviewed while working in his rice field with his wife.
He said that the latest eruption was not as serious as the locals believed. "Dangerous eruptions are always followed by a thundering sound and a flash of lightning." Sarwadi, head of Dukun district, said that at least 50 residents of Sumber village, which is situated along Lamat River, had left their homes early in the morning.
"But they have just returned home, believing that the volcanic activity is slowing down," Sarwadi said. He, however, said that at least 15 trucks had been made available for those who wanted to leave their homes.

Burning forest

The hot clouds, which experts say reached more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, burned some trees in the Kandang Menjangan forest on the southwestern slope. Fine volcanic ash reached several regencies on the eastern side of the volcano such as Wonogiri, Surakarta, Klaten and Sukoharjo, while only finer ash fell on Yogyakarta city.
"The thickest ash fell in the Deles area, Klaten regency, around four kilometers east of the volcano," Sarwadi said. The hot clouds forced hundreds of sand miners, known for their stubbornness, to quit their mining sites and remove their heavy equipment to avoid danger. Meanwhile, the Central Java administration has prepared at least 15,000 gas masks to be distributed to residents.
The masks are meant to protect people from inhaling ash and dust from the volcano, said Soetrisno, City Hall spokesman. "All hospitals and public health centers are on alert, and ambulances and first aid medicines have been made available." He also said that temporary refugee sites, with temporary sanitation systems, had also been made ready.



Posted in Volcanoes @ 10 February 2001 00:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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