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Despite recent eruption, some Mt. Sinabung evacuees going home

Publication Date : 10-02-2014

 

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is sticking to its plan to send home evacuees living beyond a 5-kilometre radius from Mount Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra, despite the eruption last week that killed 16 people.

BNPB head Syamsul Maarif said that the agency had been given the green light by the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) to go ahead with the repatriation, which was scheduled to start Sunday.

There are 17 evacuated villages located 5km from the volcano, which has been erupting since September 2013.

For the first phase, the BNPB will send home evacuees living in four villages, namely Batu Karang, Rimo Kayu, Cimbang and Ujung Payung.

“We have told the Karo regent to inform heads of the affected villages,” Syamsul said on Sunday.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that each head of the family had been allowed to go home a few days ago to clean up their houses.

As of Sunday, the total number of evacuees reached 32,351 or 9,991 families in 42 shelters across the regency, BNPB reported. The evacuees come from 32 villages and 2 hamlets.

People from the 15 villages and two hamlets within 5 km of the volcano are still forbidden from returning home.

The 15 villages are Mardinding, Perbaji, Selandi, Sukameriah, Guru Kinayan, Gamber, Berastepu, Bekerah, Simacem, Sukanalu, Kuta Tonggal, Sigarang-garang, Kuta Rakyat, Kuta Gugung and Kuta Tengah, while the hamlets are Sibintun and Lau Kawar.

“Residents in the 15 villages and two hamlets still have to stay at shelters,” Sutopo said, adding that the Mt. Sinabung eruptions were still frequent.

“All activity within the 5-km radius is still restricted due to the high intensity of volcanic activities.”

The ongoing eruptions have forced the agency to extend the emergency relief period to February 15, Sutopo added.

Last week, after a lull during which people dared approach the volcano, Mt. Sinabung erupted, killing 16 and injuring one. The 17 victims, mostly students, reportedly wanted to see the crater up close.

Prior eruptions had caused the death of 31 residents and destroyed thousands of hectares of agricultural land in the regency, which is a major vegetable and fruit producer.

The eruptions have caused total losses of more than 1 trillion rupiah (US$82 million) in the agricultural and housing sectors.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to provide short-term measures for evacuees that include providing scholarships for elementary, junior high, senior high school and university students; cash-for-work incentives for every household head; assistance for eruption victims whose farms were damaged; cooperation with financial institutions to reschedule old credit loans; the provision of fresh credit loans; and phasing out interest on existing loans.

Meanwhile, Sutopo said that BNPB with Sumatra Utara University (USU) and Medan State University (Unimed) had provided courses for junior and senior high school students living at shelters.

He said that the Education and Culture Ministry had also procured books, classroom materials and scholarships worth 19.23 billion rupiah for elementary, junior high, senior high school and university students.

“The Karo Education Agency is ready to disburse the scholarship fund soon,” Sutopo said.

 

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