Merapi Evacuees Ignore Volcano Threat to Go Home

Jakarta Globe:

Thousands of Indonesian families returned to their villages Monday even as scientists warned Mount Merapi volcano remained a severe threat and more bodies were found buried in the ash. Carrying their belongings on motorcycles and pickup trucks, more than 30,000 people had left emergency shelters after the government reduced a 20-kilometre (12-mile) exclusion zone by as much as half in certain districts. Most of the returnees were from Boyolali, Klaten and Magelang districts where the danger zone had been reduced.

Mount Merapi, a sacred landmark in Javanese tradition whose name translates as “Mountain of Fire”, had killed 259 people as of Monday’s count. Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 367,548 people were still living in shelters on Monday, about 30,000 fewer than on Sunday.

Merapi spewed clouds of gas and ash as high as four kilometres Sunday but volcanologist Subandrio said this was “small compared to the 14 kilometres in previous days”.

“It’s safe for people to go home as long as they stay outside the danger zone,” he added. The government maintained the 20-kilometre danger zone for Sleman district, on the southern slopes of the mountain, as “there’s still a probability of heat clouds going in that direction”, he said.

In another report The Jakarta Globe says that evacuees leaving the camps have been asked to sign waivers before returning home:

About 600 evacuees left two shelters in Boyolali on Friday to return to their homes in the Selo and Cepogo subdistricts. Volunteers at the shelters tried to persuade them to stay, but the evacuees were insistent. Those who wanted to leave were eventually made to sign a statement saying that they were leaving the shelters voluntarily.

“We will still monitor them and give them food aid because food is still scarce at the mountain slopes,” a volunteer told Metro TV. Another shelter located in Tlogo village, Prambanan subdistrict, Klaten, was almost empty. Most of the 1,200 evacuees had returned to their homes, arguing that their cattle and fields were deserted.

Mount Merapi in 1920

File:COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Rijstvelden bij de vulkanen Merapi en Merbaboe op Java. TMnr 60007940.jpg

Mt. Merapi ca. 1920: Thilly Weissenborn (Fotograaf/photographer). Lux Fotostudio (Fotostudio).wikimedia commons

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