The Jakarta Post
As of Thursday, the alert status of Mount Kelud in East Java, which erupted Thursday night last week, has been downgraded from the highest level, Awas (Danger), to Siaga (Alert), as the volcanic activity has gradually decreased.
Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's Geological Agency head Surono said there was no indication that the volcano would erupt again in the near future.
'I don't decide the alert status. Mt. Kelud controls that,' Surono said when announcing the new alert status at the Grahadi State Building in Surabaya.
Also present during the announcement were National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Syamsul Maarif, East Java Governor Soekarwo, Deputy Governor Saifullah Yusuf, East Java Police Chief Insp. Gen. Unggung Cahyono and Military Regional V/Brawijaya Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Asmai.
Umar Rosadi of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) said under the new alert status the exclusion zone for Kelud had also been reduced from 10 kilometers to five kilometers.
'Evacuees whose houses are located outside the exclusion zone can return home,' Umar said.
Kediri Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Adi Suwignyo said that even before the alert status was downgraded, thousands of evacuees had already returned home.
'As of Wednesday evening the total number of evacuees still housed in shelters was 28,492,' said Adi.
Adi added that 8,622 houses in Kediri were severely damaged, with 5,426 moderately damaged and 5,088 with minimal damage.
Malang Regent Rendra Kresna said at least 3,782 houses in three districts Kasembon, Ngantang and Pujon had been damaged, with total losses predicted to reach Rp 392 billion (US$33.1 million).
For the whole East Java province, the damage bill was expected to reach Rp 1.2 trillion, with agricultural industries the worst hit, according to the Mt. Kelud Disaster Mitigation chairman Ahmad Sukardi.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has commended the handling of the Mt. Kelud disaster.
'After speaking with evacuees in three regencies and two municipalities, I can say that I am satisfied with the disaster relief operation. Thank you,' he said in his Twitter account @SBYudhoyono in Jakarta on Thursday, as quoted by Antara.
Meanwhile the Adi Soemarmo Airport in Surakarta, Central Java, reopened on Thursday. The first aircraft that took off from the airport was the Garuda Indonesia GA 221 flight, which departed for Jakarta at 07:07 a.m. with 97 passengers onboard.
'All the runways, taxiways and apron have been cleared of volcanic ash,' commander of the Adi Soemarmo Air Base Col. Agus Radar Sucahyo on Thursday.
On Thursday the airport served 25 fights, 19 of which were inbound flights while the other eight were outbound. The airport was closed on Friday due to thick layers of volcanic ash from Mt. Kelud.
The airport was among seven airports in Java that were closed due to the volcanic ash. The other six airports have since reopened.
In a related development, the Surakarta municipal administration has rescheduled some of the city's anniversary events.
The Solo Carnival, which was initially scheduled for Feb. 15, will now take place on Feb. 22. While the Porridge Festival has been moved to Feb. 22-23, after it was originally scheduled between Feb. 16-17. The anniversary ceremony date, Feb. 17, has been changed to Feb. 23.
Secretary-general of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies' (ASITA) Central Java branch, Nanik Sutaningtyas, said the eruption had caused billions of rupiah in financial losses to the tourism sector in the province, especially due to canceled tourist visits and airport closures.