The Jakarta Post
Volcanic ash from Mount Kelud in East Java, which has lingered over Yogyakarta since Friday last week, has increased the air temperature in the province from between 26 and 28 degrees Celsius to between 32 and 36 in the past few days.
According to Gadjah Mada University (UGM) disaster management team representative Sudibyakto, the heat occurred because the volcanic ash was hygroscopic, so it absorbed water in the air.
'As a result, the air has dried and the air temperature has increased,' he told reporters in Yogyakarta on Friday.
He reminded of the danger of the air quality in Yogyakarta to human health, since volcanic ash was still in the air, blanketing buildings and trees. Piles of volcanic ash could also be seen in the streets.
Sudibyakto said the maximum allowed particle content in the air was 230 micrograms per cubic meter, while according to his team's examination, current levels in the province contained particles consisting of 416 micrograms, with the figure reaching 1,249 micrograms in some areas.
'Only heavy, repeated rain can clean Yogyakarta's air,' he added.
Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Yogyakarta spokesperson Tony Agus Wijaya said Yogyakarta was still in the rainy season, with the dry season only starting in April.
He called on people to be aware of high wind speeds, which caused volcanic ash to spread around the region.
Tony also advised people to frequently clean the ash from their respective neighborhoods and not wait for the rain to do so.
Cleaning activities were also conducted at Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, by some 700 Buddhist monks from a number of regions, including Boyolali, Temanggung, Banjarnegara, Wonogiri and Semarang in Central Java, Antara news agency reported.
On Friday afternoon and evening, rain fell over parts of the province, helping to wash volcanic ash from roofs and trees.
Mt. Kelud erupted on Feb. 13, spewing ash as far as Sukabumi in West Java. The disaster killed several residents, displaced thousands and paralyzed cities in Central Java and Yogyakarta.
Yogyakarta Health Agency head Arida Oetami said volcanic ash had caused a 25 percent increase in those suffering respiratory problems.
As many as 1,315 people have been recorded as suffering from respiratory disorders, while 145 are suffering from eye irritation and 115 others are suffering from throat problems. These records do not count the 44 people who were involved in traffic accidents due to limited visibility.
Meanwhile, evacuees of Mt. Kelud's eruption from Karangploso, Malang, East Java, will return home gradually as the government has downgraded the alert level of the volcano.
Karangploso evacuation center coordinator Dwi Purnomo Sidi said logistical supplies would continue to be distributed to evacuees upon their arrival home.
Some villagers are excited to return, but others have insisted on remaining in shelters.
'Even though the alert status has been downgraded, scores of evacuees are asking to stay in the shelters because their houses are damaged,' said Adi Suwignya, head of the information unit for the Kediri Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), as quoted by Antara news agency.
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