Archipelago

Volcanic ash in N. Sumatra,
floods in W. Papua force
villagers to flee

The pyroclastic flow of hot volcanic ash discharged from the powerful eruption of Mount Sinabung, in Karo regency, North Sumatra, on Thursday threatened the safety of nearby residents.

As a result, 10 villages located at the foot of the volcano had been evacuated as of Thursday afternoon, due to the danger from the pyroclastic flow. The vacated villages are Simacem, Bekerah, Suka Meriah, Gurukinayan, Mardinding, Sigarang-garang, Berastepu, Hutagunggung, Laukawar and Gamber.

Karo regency administration spokesman Jhonson Tarigan said Gamber was the latest village to be evacuated because the pyroclastic cloud was heading in its direction on Thursday.

“The pyroclastic flow has started threatening the safety of residents as it has reached the villages,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He said the farthest flow of the hot ash, of around 1,200 meters southeast toward Gamber village, compared to the previous 800 meters, took place at 7 a.m. local time.

About 600 villagers from Gamber were evacuated on Thursday.

Jhonson added that as of 2:30 p.m. more than 7,000 residents had been evacuated from the 10 villages. They are being accommodated at 13 shelters in Tiga Nderket, Payung, Namanteran and Kabanjahe districts. He said the evacuees badly needed relief aid, such as clothing and food to survive in the shelters.

“We have run out of supplies. We don’t know when the eruptions will stop so that evacuees can return to their homes,” he said, adding that he hoped for help from donors.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the intensity of eruption of Mount Sinabung was increasing.

Sutopo said Thursday’s eruption took place at 6:57 a.m. and lasted for 1,056 seconds, spewing volcanic materials up to a height of 7,000 meters. He said that based on observation conducted by the Vulcanology Center, Mount Sinabung was currently covered by thick clouds.

Meanwhile, in West Papua, hundreds of residents abandoned Wasior, the seat of Teluk Wondama regency following flash floods on Thursday which swept away and destroyed hundreds of homes.

The evacuees left Wasior on board the ferry KM Napan Wainami which was berthed at Wasior Port as well as on other ships to Nabire and Manokwari. “Hundreds of residents have left Wasior, some of them to Nabire and Manokwari. They are afraid of subsequent floods and were traumatized by the massive floods in 2010,” Wasior resident Febrianti told the Post.

“A joint force of around 200 police officers and soldiers are involved directly in relief efforts there,” said Papua Police chief spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Sulistyo Pudjo.

The relief mission in Wasior, said XVII/Cenderawasih Military Command chief spokesman Col. Lismer Lumban Siantar, was hampered due to limited equipment and supporting facilities.

“The roads must be cleaned of flood debris, while fuel supplies in Wasior are limited. The damaged roads have also become an obstacle, especially in distributing relief aid to affected residents,” said Lismer.

The three districts that faced the brunt of the floods were Wasior, Wondiboi and Raisey. The floods were triggered by continuous rains from Sunday to Tuesday, thus causing rivers to burst their banks.

“As many as 12 rivers in the three districts overflowed their banks and caused flash floods,” added Lismer.

Separately, in Jambi, a major road connecting five villages in Bathin VIII district, Sarolangun regency, is at risk of collapse due to soil erosion.

Residents of Pulau Buaya, Tanjung Gagak, Muara Lati, Rantau Gedang and Batu Penyabung villages depend entirely on the road to get to the district and regency seats, as well as to transport their rubber and oil palm harvests.

Local community figure Arman said the road along the banks of the Merangin River had been undermined over the past month following heavy rainfall in Sarolangun.

As there is no other road, residents from the five villages must use the road with great caution.

Jon Afrizal contributed to this article from Jambi

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