Mt. Sinabung ash destroys
dozens of homes, blankets

For the love of a pet: A villager carries her dog onto a truck during an evacuation after Mount Sinabung erupted, in Kuta Rakyat village, Karo district, North Sumatra, on Jan. 11. More than 22,000 villagers have been evacuated since authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level in November last year. Reuters/Beawiharta

Thick volcanic ash damaged dozens of houses in a village and began blanketing cities in North Sumatra on Saturday due to continuous eruptions at Mount Sinabung.

“Volcanic ash from an eruption that occurred on Friday caused several houses to collapse,” Sinabung Disaster Mitigation Media Center coordinator Jhonson Tarigan said as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.

Jhonson said that most of the houses were old and made of wood. “So it was easier for the houses to collapse under the weight of the ash.”

He said that there were no fatalities or injuries since residents had been evacuated. “They were empty houses.”

Since its first eruption in September last year, the volcano has claimed at least 14 lives, mostly due to illness and depression, as victims have been living in shelters for such a long period of time.

As of Saturday, the number of people taking refuge had reached 25,516 people, or 7,785 families from 32 villages. There were 37 shelters in the Kabanjahe area.

Jhonson also said that there was a lack of medicine and food.

 “We are starting to see a medicine shortage, as well as food. We hope to receive more donations,” he said.

Jhonson further said that volcanic activity was still high and that ash was falling heavily in the villages of Gung Pinto, Ndeskati, Ujung Teran and Sukandebi.

“All residents in the villages are wearing masks,” he added.

Medan and its surrounding areas are starting to worry as well as Mt. Sinabung is located only 80 kilometers from the province’s capital city.

“We are reluctant to go out since we are afraid the ash will have a bad effect on us,” Ismail, a porridge vendor at Jl. Karya Kasih, Medan Johor district, Medan, said on Saturday.

Ismail said the ash had been blanketing Medan since 6 a.m. on Saturday. “When I opened my doors this morning, I saw that my yard was covered with ash.”

Some students on Saturday reportedly experienced respiratory problems due to the volcanic ash.

“My kid was coughing,” said Betty Simamora, after dropping her son off at private elementary school.

The province’s Disaster Mitigation Agency head Asren Nasution revealed that besides Medan, volcanic ash had blanketed other cities and regencies, including Deli Serdang, Langkat and Binjai.

Asren said that because changes in wind direction made it difficult to predict where the volcanic ash would fall, he asked all people living around the mountain to wear masks.

“Wear masks and only leave your homes if its necessary,” he said.

The eruptions have also triggered 9,403 small hybrid quakes, indicating the intensive crater formation on the mountain.

The agency recorded 24 eruptions on Friday while volcanic ash reached as high as 4,000 meters.

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