Around 6,000 evacuees from the Mount Sinabung area in Karo regency, North Sumatra, have returned home as the volcano's emergency status was removed on Sunday. The evacuees are residents living outside the 3-kilometer radius of the volcano.
'We sent the evacuees home [on Sunday]. We provided 15 trucks ' from the TNI [Indonesian Military], Polri [the National Police], Public Works Agency, Public Order Agency and the BPBD [Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency] ' to take them home,' Karo administration spokesman Jhonson Tarigan told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Jhonson said the decision was made as their homes were considered safe from the eruption. As of Sunday afternoon, 4,349 evacuees remained in shelters across the regency, mostly residents living in five villages located within the 3-kilometer radius of the volcano.
The five villages are Simacem, Bekerah, Sigarang-garang, Kutagunggung and Suka Meriah.
Even though the volcano continued to spew ash, activities have returned to normal. Based on The Post's observations on Sunday, villagers had continued farming activities.
Nangke Sembiring, 43, a Suka Ndebi villager, said he had resumed farming but still feared further possible eruptions.
'We depend on farming. If we don't take care of this, we might not be able to eat,' said Nangke, whose vegetables, such as potatoes and cabbage, were all damaged due to volcanic ash.
'I guess I'm facing harvest failure. Many of the vegetables are damaged,' he said while pointing out the damaged potatoes.
Karo is well-known for its agricultural products. The eruption has disrupted the agricultural activities of the local farmers.
On Sept. 16, thousands of villagers fled to traditional meeting halls or jambur and houses of worship after Mt. Sinabung erupted in the early morning. No fatalities were reported as result of the disaster.
The volcano last erupted in August 2010, which was its first in 410 years.
Meanwhile, North Sumatra BPBD head Asren Nasution said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency ( BNPB ) had proposed to create artificial rain over a number of villages in the Mt. Sinabung area as an attempt to clean up volcanic ash.
'We have proposed the plan to the Karo administration, but we have yet to receive any response,' said Asren.
Commenting on the idea, Jhonson said that the administration had not discussed the issue yet. 'We'll see how it goes,' Johnson said.