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Jakarta Post

Thousands of Mt. Sinabung evacuees receive no help

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Karo, North Sumatra   /   Mon, January 12, 2015   /  09:43 am

Displaced people living around the erupting Mountain Sinabung of North Sumatra have complained that they have not received any assistance from the government, including the help promised by President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo.

'€œWe are not categorized as refugees any longer. That'€™s why we did not receive any assistance and are banned from living in the shelters,'€ Erwina Meliala, 43, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Erwina is one of 1,116 people or 370 families living in other residents'€™ houses and houses of worship who did not obtain any assistance from Karo regency, since they were not categorized as refugees.

She said that the families living in the red zone or in a 3 kilometer radius of the volcano received the last bit of assistance from the government seven months ago.

'€œWe received Rp 1.8 million [US$144] to rent a house of six months and Rp 5,000 per person per day for three months. But since Dec. 11, we haven'€™t gotten anything,'€ said the resident of Suka Meriah village who is now living in a nearby church.

The Red Zone evacuees coordinator Alfianus Ginting said that he had frequently asked the regency administration about the assistance, including the Indonesia Health Card and the Indonesia Smart Card, which were promised by Jokowi when the later visited Sinabung in November last year, but they never materialized.

'€œJokowi promised that we would get the cards two weeks after his visit. But it'€™s now two months already, we have not received them yet,'€ Alfianus said.

He said the local administration seemed not to care about the issue any longer, hoping that the central government would pay attention since the families had nothing.

He said the families wanted to live in the previously promised houses, since their houses and farmlands had been destroyed by the eruptions of the volcano.

Besides promising the cards, Jokowi also vowed to help relocate the residents and develop roads and infrastructure in the new location. He asked Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar to help issue the permit, since the location is located in a protected forest.

Separately, Mt. Sinabung Disaster Mitigation Task Force Commander Lt. Col. Asep Sukarna claimed that 50 new houses had been built in the relocation area, but they could not be inhabited since there was no clean water and electricity.

'€œWe are waiting for the facilities before the refugees move in. It'€™s not our responsibility, it should be the responsibility of the Karo regency to provide water and electricity,'€ Asep, who is also the Karo Military district commander, said.

He said the task force had completed the construction of the houses last month.

The displaced people from Suka Meriah, Bakerah and Simacem villages currently living in the red zone, would be relocated to Siosar Forest in Merek district, some 40 kilometers from the volcano that first erupted in September 2013 and has yet to stop.

Karo Regent Terkelin Brahmana refused to comment on the issue. Earlier, Terkelin said the promised assistance, including the cards, had been being identified.

As of December 2014, the number of displaced people reached 3,549. As many as 2,433 residents were still living in the evacuation shelters while the remaining 1,116 people staying at relatives'€™ houses and houses of worship.

On Sunday, the volcano still spewed hot clouds and volcanic ash. In the last couple days, Sinabung emitted cold lava flowing to the residential areas as heavy rain poured in the areas, creating concern among residents.