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Jakarta Post

Mt. Merapi evacuation routes in dire need of repair

  • Bambang Muryanto and Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta/Medan   /   Fri, November 22, 2013   /  09:57 am

The government was urged to immediately repair the severely damaged evacuation routes on the slopes of Mount Merapi, which lies on the border of Yogyakarta and Central Java provinces.

'€œOver 50 percent of the evacuation routes on the slopes are damaged,'€ Sleman Regency Disaster Mitigation Agency'€™s (BPBD) prevention and preparedness division head Heru Saptono told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

One of the world'€™s most active volcanoes, Mt. Merapi, experienced a phreatic eruption on Monday, forcing residents '€” especially those living in the most hazardous areas (KRB) III '€” to flee their homes.

Phreatic eruptions occur when rainwater comes into contact with hot magma, thus, causing a build up of high-pressured gas that triggers an eruption.

Monday was Merapi'€™s second phreatic eruption this year. The Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development (BPPTKG) center in Yogyakarta predicted eruptions would be frequent throughout the rainy season.

These expected eruptions mean that it is imperative evacuation routes are maintained to ensure residents can be evacuated quickly. Heru said that of a total of 47 villages located on the slope of Mount Merapi, 22 are considered to be in high-risk areas.

'€œThe evacuation routes have been damaged by trucks transporting sand,'€ he explained.

Hundreds of trucks traverse the routes everyday to take building material sourced from the river. As a result, most of the routes are severely damaged, some have big potholes.

'€œIf there was an emergency it would be difficult for residents to move quickly, putting their lives at risk,'€ Heru said.

To deal with the problem, he said, trucks would be rerouted and the evacuation roads would be repaired. He also called on the local subdistrict administration to implement the policy.

The government, Heru said, would need around Rp 41 billion (US$3.50 million) to repair the evacuation routes.

Complaints over damaged evacuation routes were also expressed by Kalitengah Kidul village head, Jamin, whose region is within the hazardous area. He hoped that the government would address the damage as soon as possible.

Separately, in Karo regency, North Sumatra, Mount Sinabung eruptions over the past three months have impacted negatively on horticulture, triggering hikes in the price of commodities.

Farmers in a number of villages in the region have been unable to tend to their crops following the continuous eruptions. Known for its fertile ground, Karo supplies a number of foodstuffs to other provinces in Sumatra and Java.

Chili, for example, is currently being traded for Rp 70,000 per kilogram, it was previously only Rp 30,000 per kg.

'€œOver the past week many people are choosing to buy chili'€™s from Bandung,'€ Nur Aisyah, a vendor at Petisah traditional market in Medan, said, adding that Bandung chili only cost Rp 40,000 per kg.

Head of Karo Agriculture and Horticulture Agency, Agustoni Tarigan said harvests in the regency had decreased by up to 30 percent.

'€œThis is not yet an emergency situation because we are still able to meet the market'€™s demands,'€ Tarigan said Thursday, adding that 15 commodities '€” including broccoli, cabbage, chili, corn, orange, potato, sweet cassava and tomato '€” were especially hard hit by the Mt. Sinabung eruptions. '€œThe financial losses in the agriculture sector due to the Mount Sinabung eruptions could reach as much as Rp 40 billion,'€ Tarigan said.

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