The Jakarta Post
The number of people displaced by the Mt. Sinabung eruptions in Karo regency, North Sumatra, has reportedly risen to 18,000, as volcanic activity continued on Monday.
The evacuees are being accommodated in 22 shelters, including in Telagah village, Sei Bingai district in neighboring Langkat regency, where at least 133 people have sought refuge.
As of noon on Monday, the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) reported six eruptions since morning, but their intensity was not as strong as the eruption on Saturday evening.
Mt. Sinabung Eruption Emergency Response commander Lt. Col. Meyer Putong, also the Tanah Karo Military commander, said some residents sought shelter in Langkat regency. He added that they fled to Langkat as it was closer than other shelters in Karo regency.
'Residents are afraid because Mt. Sinabung continues to erupt, especially following the eruption on Saturday evening. Ever since then, the number of displaced people keeps rising,' Putong told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a coordinated meeting in Kabanjahe, the seat of Karo regency, on Monday.
He said the current number of displaced persons had exceeded 18,000, or an increase of 80 percent from Sunday. He added that the number would likely rise as volcanic activity remained high.
He said the evacuees were in good condition and no casualties had been reported since Mt. Sinabung started erupting in September.
A resident of Kota Rakyat village, Kuat Tarigan, said he and other villagers chose to evacuate to Langkat because the area was safe from the impacts of eruptions.
'We left our village after the powerful eruption on Saturday evening and we arrived here at Sunday noon. We're exhausted, but we don't care as long as we're safe,' said Kuat, who has taken refuge in Telagah village, Sei Bingai district, Langkat.
At the Kuala Namu International Airport, near Medan, Susi Air had yet to resume operations after canceling a number of flights to Aceh and North Sumatra on Sunday due to airborne volcanic ash, while AirAsia, which had postponed flights, resumed operating on Monday.
Separately, residents from villages nearest to Mt. Sinabung, such as Sukameriah, Naman Teran and Simpang Empat, demanded that the local administration immediately relocate them to safer areas.
'Our village is no longer habitable. We are worried about a bigger eruption. Please build us homes in a new place where we can live normally like before,' said Idawati Ginting from Sukameriah, who is currently taking shelter at the Nurul Awwaliah mosque in Payung village, Payung district, Karo.
'Hot clouds have reached our fields and we are very scared. It's impossible to return home because it's still dangerous. We are not allowed to return home even though many of our belongings are still in our houses,' said Idawati.
Regional Representative Council (DPD) member Darmayanti, from North Sumatra, and acting Medan mayor Dzulmi Eldin were of the same view about the relocation.
'I agree with them; their request is realistic. They should be relocated to a new place that is safer,' said Dzulmi as he handed over relief aid to evacuees in Payung village, on Sunday, adding that he would convey their request to the central government.
Dzulmi, Damayanti and volunteers from the Sumatra Women's Foundation, the Indonesian Journalists Families Association and the Sumatra Creative Women's Community provided relief aid to evacuees at the Nurul Awwaliah mosque in Payung village on Nov. 22.
The aid was in the form of instant noodles, bottled water, sanitary napkins, cash and other things.
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