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Jakarta Post

First Mt. Sinabung evacuees may return home soon

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Medan   /   Sat, February 1, 2014   /  09:16 am

The government, via the National Disaster Mitigation Board (BNPB), plans to send home 13,828 evacuees whose homes lie beyond a 5-kilometer radius of Mount Sinabung, following a decline in volcanic activity from the volcano in the past few days.

BNPB head Syamsul Ma'€™arif, as head of the relief mission, said the planned repatriation of evacuees from 16 villages would be put into motion, while volcanic activity would continue to be monitored until the situation was safe.

'€œVolcanic activity has died down lately. This has prompted us to return 13,828 evacuees living beyond 5 km of the volcano'€™s crater. However, we will inform [those concerned] beforehand,'€ Syamsul said following a coordination meeting on further mitigation measures at the North Sumatra governor'€™s official residence in Medan on Thursday.

The meeting, attended by officials from the BNPB, relevant ministries and agencies and the North Sumatra administration, proposed the repatriation of evacuees from 16 villages near Mt. Sinabung, which has been erupting for the last five months.

When reached for confirmation, Mt. Sinabung observation officer Armen Putra said volcanic activity had further declined in the past week.

'€œVolcanic activity has dwindled in the past week, but molten lava flows are still frequent,'€ Armen told The Jakarta Post after confirming that Mt. Sinabung had erupted once again early on Friday.

He said Friday'€™s eruption was not as powerful as those in previous days. He added that the eruption, which occurred at 7:56 a.m., discharged volcanic dust up to 1,000 meters high and hot clouds as far as 2 km to the south.

Syamsul said despite the decrease in volcanic activity, the BNPB would wait for a recommendation from the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) before sending the evacuees home.

Besides that, he added, his agency ensure that all necessary infrastructure, including roads leading to the villages, was in good condition and that power was available.

Separately, commander of the Mt. Sinabung Emergency Response Task Force, Let. Col. Asep Sukarna, who also heads up the Tanah Karo regional military command (Kodam), said he had heard about the BNPB'€™s plan to send home some of the evacuees. Asep said his unit would follow up the plan in a meeting with regency officials to discuss the repatriation'€™s logistics.

Data from the Karo regency administration showed the total number of displaced people following the eruptions of Mt. Sinabung was 30,117, or 9,388 families as of 12 p.m. on Friday, 1,244 of them small children. They are being accommodated in 42 shelters.

Last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced mitigation measures and recovery programs for the victims of Mt. Sinabung during a two-day visit to the area.

The short-term measures include disaster relief aid; the continuation of health care and education, such as providing scholarships for elementary, junior and senior high school children and university students; cash-for-work incentives for every household head; assistance for eruption victims whose farmland was damaged; collaboration with financial institutions to reschedule old loans; the provision of fresh loans; and the phasing out of interest on existing loans.

The government also plans to relocate residents living within a 3-km radius of the volcano and provide new settlements for affected residents between 5 and 7 km from the volcano.

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