Mt. Sinabung eruptions disrupt food supplies
Fadli and Apriadi Gunawan
The Jakarta Post
The eruptions of Mount Sinabung in the past week have disrupted vegetable supplies to the Riau Islands, especially Batam, causing a staggering increase in food prices.
Bank Indonesia (BI) Riau Islands branch head Gusti Raizal Eka Putra said on Wednesday that supplies of a number of foodstuffs from North Sumatra had been disrupted due to the natural disaster, causing a sharp increase in prices and setting the inflation rate in October at 0.16 percent monthly. North Sumatra is a food supplier to Riau Islands.
'We predict the inflation rate in November will go higher,' said Gusti.
The Brastagi area in Tanah Karo regency, North Sumatra, supplies a number of foodstuffs to Riau Islands, such as chili and a variety of other vegetables. The price of chili in Batam has increased sharply from Rp 18,000 (US$1.60) to Rp 40,000 per kilogram.
The price of vegetables sold in traditional markets is also increasing. A number of traders claim they depend on supplies from other provinces, such as Java and Jambi.
Batam Industry and Trade Agency head Amsakar Ahmad said around 20 percent of the food demand in Batam and surrounding areas came from North Sumatra.
He said his office believed the price increase was just temporary in nature and prices would return to normal.
Separately, in Tanah Karo, North Sumatra, as many as 381 Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel from the Tanah Karo Military Command have been mobilized to secure homes in four villages that are reportedly deserted after they were vacated by their owners following a recent eruption.
The abandoned homes are found in Simacem, Bekerah, Mardinding and Suka Meriah villages, which are located in the danger zone as they are situated within a 3-kilometer (km) radius of Mt. Sinabung.
The government has declared Suka Meriah village, located around 2.5 km from Mt. Sinabung, as susceptible to molten lava flow in the event of eruptions.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has urged residents, especially those living within the 3-km radius of the mountain, to evacuate and stay alert in relation to the risks of lava flows.
Tanah Karo Military Command chief Let. Col. Meyer Putong, also disaster response commander, said residents living in the 3-km radius had been evacuated. Meyer said as of 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 1,752 people had been evacuated, a slight increase compared to 1,661 on Tuesday.
'We have deployed 381 personnel during the emergency response period. They will be on standby in shelters and deserted villages around the clock,' said Meyer.
On Wednesday, Mt. Sinabung erupted again. Observation officer Nur Rohman said the volcano had erupted twice as of 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
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