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Jakarta Post

Mass solidarity in face of rumbling volcano

  • I Wayan Juniarta

    The Jakarta Post

Karangasem   /   Thu, September 28, 2017   /   09:33 am
Mass solidarity in face of rumbling volcano Finding safety: Residents evacuate along with their livestocks to escape the potential eruption of Mount Agung, which has been rumbling for the last few days. (JP/Anggara Mahendra)

In an impressive show of solidarity, communities and individuals have banded together to provide assistance for evacuees who have had to escape the rumbling Mount Agung in Bali.

Immediately after Nyoman Widana entered the front room of his house, he slumped to the floor. Extremely exhausted after spending the whole day assisting evacuees and coordinating the incoming flow of donated goods, he desperately needed a brief nap.

Yet, instead of closing his eyes, he started telling how touched he was with what he had witnessed in the evacuation center.

“It makes me proud to be Balinese to see this constant flow of help and goodwill from institutions and individuals from across the island,” he said.

Widana described how people from his hometown in Nusa Penida, an island off Klungkung, sent boats laden with sacks of rice and bottled water as well as wiring a huge sum of money to him to buy supplies for the evacuees.

“This morning vegetable growers stopped by at the center with three truckloads of fresh produce and donated it all,” he said.

“I am overwhelmed by both the number of arriving evacuees and the generosity shown by the Balinese.”

Widana is the adjutant of popular Klungkung Regent Nyoman Suwirta, who responded quickly to the massive inflow of evacuees from villages in the neighboring regency of Karangasem, where the rumbling peak of Mt. Agung is located.

Suwirta assigned Widana the task of supervising assistance efforts at the Swecapura sports complex, which has been transformed into an evacuation center. The complex is currently home to more than 3,811 evacuees while the regency is hosting 19,456 evacuees.

Deceptively calm: People go about their daily activities in the shadow of the rumbling Mount Agung in Bali.Deceptively calm: People go about their daily activities in the shadow of the rumbling Mount Agung in Bali. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

As of Wednesday the total number of evacuees had reached more than 96,000 — higher than expected by the authorities — at nearly 500 shelters across all of the island’s eight regencies and one city.

The moving show of human kindness witnessed by Widana has, in fact, occurred in many places across the island and as far as Jakarta.

As government-designated evacuation centers were overwhelmed with evacuees, traditional institutions, such as desa pekraman (customary village) and banjar (traditional neighborhood organizations), in Klungkung, Karangasem, Gianyar and Bangli have opened their temples and community halls and organized public kitchens run by the local women’s associations.

“This is the least we can do for our brothers and sisters,” Wayan Sulendra, the chief of Besang Kawan Tohjiwa customary village, said.

In Klungkung alone, more than 90 traditional institutions have opened evacuee shelters.

Their initiative is a fine example of menyame-braya, salungung-sabayantaka, the moral code that guides the Balinese traditional institutions. It stipulates that members of the institutions must treat each other as brethren and stick together during good and bad times.

Examples of solidarity have also been seen along the main road that connects Klungkung with Menanga, a village on the slope of the rumbling peak, and Besakih, where the island’s mother temple lies.

As trucks from the police and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) navigated the narrow road to transport refugees into Klungkung, a convoy of 15 SUVs from the Sahara Squad off-road club sped into Menanga to carry food and medicines.

Listen up, kids: A policeman speaks with children at the Swecapura sports complex, which has become one of the centers for evacuees fleeing from the rumbling Mount Agung in Bali.Listen up, kids: A policeman speaks with children at the Swecapura sports complex, which has become one of the centers for evacuees fleeing from the rumbling Mount Agung in Bali. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

“The goods were donated by the Satya Dharma Buddhist Temple in Benoa, Badung, and we’re helping to transport them,” Sahara Squad team leader, I Ketut Suwena said, adding that they would conduct similar efforts in the following days.

Generous individuals have also joined the assistance efforts, including by offering rooms in their homes for the evacuees while top Balinese artists have held mini concerts at shelters to cheer them up. Moreover, an increasing number of expatriates and tourists have also shown their love for the island.

“I think even if it’s not erupting, it will still cause a lot of trouble for the people. It’s good that everybody is helping,” Arnaud Astruck said on Tuesday after donating goods at the Swecapura complex.

The Australian man is holidaying here with his family for one month and due to leave Bali next week.

BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho publicly praised the show of solidarity displayed by the Balinese.

“I rarely encounter this level of public solidarity in other places, but here in Bali, it is everywhere. People quickly offer assistance, from shelters for evacuees and their livestock to food and medicines. It is simply impressive,” he said.