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Mt. Merapi | Eruptions damage surrounding forests

The eruption of hot clouds and volcanic ash from Mount Merapi have caused significant damage to forests surrounding the mountain, a government official says.

The current eruptions have damaged at least 400 hectares of forest on the slopes of Merapi, after around 560 hectares were damaged in the 2006 eruptions.

"The damage may grow with later eruptions," Central Java Forestry Agency chief Sri Puryono said Tuesday.

Reforestation efforts were due to commence in November, Pur-yono said.

Central Java and Yogyakarta, where Mount Merapi lies, are home to a total of 6,500 hectares of forest.

The steep gradients and the slow growth of mountainous plants around Merapi would be likely to make the reforestation process slow, he said.

Puryono said the forest could to take up to 10 years to recover.

"Besides pine and rasamala trees, we plan to grow guava trees for the animals," he said, explaining that his office had been informed by residents living around the forests that many monkeys had been venturing into villages because of a scarcity of fruit trees in their habitat.

"The provincial administration has earmarked Rp 4 million [about

US$400] per hectare for the reforestation program," Puryono said.

He added that the economic cost of the environmental damage had not been estimated, but said ecological damage had clearly taken place, especially the death of vegetation and water pollution.

The numbers of animals had declined in affected areas, Semarangs Diponegoro University environmental science Prof. Sudharto P. Hadi said.

This had made it more difficult for local residents to predict volcanic activity since previously birds and animals, would descend from the mountain prior to an eruption, he said.

"The Javanese call it the titen knowledge, or reading the naturalsigns that can be used to predict a natural phenomenon," he said, adding that the community now had to rely solely on official warnings from the government.

The number of animals in the area has reportedly declined drastically because of damage to the forests.

Sand quarrying on the slopes of Merapi, which has now extended to the Merapi National Park, has been blamed for some of this damage.

"The government should take a firm stance on those involved in environmental destruction. Residents around Mount Merapi sometimes still have more faith in natural signs compared to scientific explanations, so both of them need to be in synergy," he said.

Source : The Jakarta Post

Merapi eruption halts social, economic activities in Kebumen


After a series of rain of ashes from the erupting Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta pouring their city in the past three days, residents of Kebumen, Central Java, said they had seen their regular social and economic activities affected by the incident.

Dalyunani, 66, who lives nearby Karanganyar railway station, said she had found only several stalls operating in the Karanganyar wet market since Friday after most vendors in the market had chosen to stay at home following the first heavy rain of ashes the day before.

"It makes the price of many vegetables, like potatoes and water spinach, have increased by double," she told The Jakarta Post Saturday.

Umi, a water spinach farmer from Sruweng district, said she could not sell her product to the market since Thursday after her water spinach field had been covered by volcanic ashes.

"There is no chance I can supply water spinach again until the [Merapi] eruption fully ended," the mother of six said.

Both Umi and Dalyunani said they had also warned their family members to wear mask every time they went for outdoor activities.

Located 120 kilometers away west of Yogyakarta, Kebumen has found most buildings, vehicles, trees and streets in its area covered by a thin layer of volcanic ashes.

Some students met by the Post on Saturday morning said their school had asked them to return home, saying that the teaching activities would be resumed until the situation "get better."

"But no teacher could say when exactly we could go to school again," said Bahtiar, an 8th grader in SMP 4 Kebumen State Junior High School.

Source : http://www.thejakartapost.com

Merapi’s wrath claims more lives

Burned to ash: An Indonesian Red Cross official examines the damage from the plumes of hot ash and lava from  Mount Merapi at Bronggang village, Cangkringan, Sleman regency, in Yogyakarta on Friday. The 750 degree Celsius hot gas burned down several villages and killed more than 70 people from Thursday midnight. JP/Slamet Susanto

Burned to ash: An Indonesian Red Cross official examines the damage from the plumes of hot ash and lava from Mount Merapi at Bronggang village, Cangkringan, Sleman regency, in Yogyakarta on Friday. The 750 degree Celsius hot gas burned down several villages and killed more than 70 people from Thursday midnight. JP/Slamet Susanto

Hot clouds of ash and lava from smoldering Mount Merapi claimed more victims Friday, torching at least two villages in Yogyakarta and killing dozens of more lives.

The death toll from the disaster climbed to 122 on Friday, forcing authorities to expand the danger zone to a 20-kilometer radius from the mountain.

Ash showers spread to most cities in Central Java and Yogyakarta, where Indonesia’s most active volcano is located, and even reached as far as Bandung and Bogor, West Java.

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Geological Agency head R. Sukhyar said Merapi’s eruption could be heard up to 20 kilometers away while volcanic ash had reached as far as Bandung.

“Merapi’s eruption on Friday was the biggest in the country since Mount Galunggung’s eruption in 1982.

It is the biggest for Merapi in the past century,” he said Friday. Sukhyar said it was hard to calculate when the volcano would cease activity. “Do not ask us when it will stop. We really don’t know. Magma continues spilling.”

Before Friday’s eruption, the volcano had killed 44 people, mostly in its first eruption on Oct. 26, which destroyed two villages, Kaliadem and Kinahrejo, both in Cangkringan district, Sleman regency, Yogyakarta.

Two more villages, Bronggang Suruh in Argomulyo and Slodokan in Wukirsari, were completely devastated by the volcano’s hot clouds of ash and lava Friday.

“We did not predict hot clouds would reach Argomulyo, which is not located inside the 20-kilometer danger zone,” said Argomulyo resident Nur Syamsu Hadi on Friday. “The blast was very frightening. It was so loud and strong.”

He said most residents did not flee to safety, believing they were in the safe zone. The subdistrict is just 14.2 kilometers from the crater.

“People should have known to leave areas within 20 kilometers of Merapi. We have informed them,” Sleman administration spokeswoman Endah Sri Widiastuti said.

Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) head Surono said the magma supply from Friday’s eruption had risen from a depth of 7 kilometers beneath the crater. Previously, the eruptions’ magma came from a 2-kilometer depth. “That’s why the tremor could be heard up to a radius of 20 kilometers from the volcano,” he said.

Friday’s eruption also disrupted traffic and forced Yogyakarta’s Adi Sutjipto Airport authority to temporarily close the airport Friday. It is scheduled to resume activity Saturday morning.

National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia spokesman Pujobroto said in a statement that all passengers can reschedule their flights or refund their tickets by calling the Garuda Call Center at 08041807807.

Retno, a passenger of a Yogyakarta-Jakarta flight, said she was told her flight was canceled. “I have to wait until tomorrow for my flight.”

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport authority also canceled all flights leaving for Yogyakarta for safety reasons. The cancelation affected a total of 41 flights bound for Yogyakarta, causing thousands of passengers to be stranded for hours at Terminal 1.

Panti Nugroho Hospital on Jl. Kaliurang also decided to close operation Friday and evacuated its patients to Panti Rapih Hospital in downtown Yogyakarta.

“We made the decision as the site is no longer safe,” said the hospital’s director, Tendean Arif Wibowo.
Rescuers worked hard to evacuate survivors and the dead, struggling to cope with thick, hot volcanic dust and smoke from burning material.

“Evacuating victims is difficult since the condition is still dangerous. We prioritize survivors so they can immediately be sent to hospital,” said Purwo Gogon of Yogyakarta’s search and rescue team.

Victims, with clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin from 750 degree Celsius heat, were evacuated on stretchers following the explosion, The Associated Press reported.

Soldiers joined rescue operations in hardest-hit Bronggang village, pulling at least 78 bodies from homes and streets blanketed by ash up to 30-centimeters deep.

“The heat surrounded us and there was white smoke everywhere,” Niti Raharjo, 47, who was thrown from his motorbike along with his 19-year-old son while trying to flee, told the AP.

“I saw people running, screaming in the dark, people were so scared they fell unconscious,” he said from his hospital bed. “There was an explosion that sounded like bombs during a war ... and it got worse with ash and debris raining down.”

Police officer Col. Tjiptono told AP that most bodies were found in front of houses and on streets, adding it appeared many villagers died from searing gas while trying to escape.

In Semarang, head of Central Java Disaster Mitigation Body Djarot Nugroho said the eruption was beyond the calculations of PVMBG, the authority responsible for the regional administrations’ disaster mitigation plan.

These miscalculations, he said, were responsible for the failure to implement disaster mitigation plans, mainly in regards to refugees.

“Makeshift tents are unavailable since the area where they were deployed is now included in the danger zone,” he said Friday.

Source : http://www.thejakartapost.com