The myth of disaster recovery: Thousands still homeless a year after eruption of Merapi

October 29, 2011 – INDONESIA –  A year ago this week Mount Merapi kicked off a series of eruptions that would become its most violent in more than a century, killing more than 300 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Fast-moving clouds of superheated gas and ash scorched entire villages as they raced from the crater down the volcano’s slopes. It was in one of these pyroclastic flows on Oct. 26, 2010, that killed Mbah Maridjan, the legendary “keeper” of Merapi, after he refused calls to evacuate. The eruptions peaked on Nov. 5, with a spectacular ash plume extending 14 kilometers into the atmosphere. Also on that date, 88 people were killed when a torrent of lava destroyed their village 17 kilometers from the crater. The eruption also sent a rain of lava descending on villages up to 30 kilometers away.  It was not until early December that the rumbling eased and the eruptions were officially declared over. But the disaster did not end there. The rainy season that year and into early 2011 washed millions of tons of ash deposits that had blanketed Merapi’s slopes into the series of rivers running down to Yogyakarta, Magelang and other parts of Central Java. These torrents of mud, or lahar, washed out entire bridges, cut off roads and flooded homes and fields for months after the eruptions first began. Tens of thousands of people were made homeless by the lahar and the imposition of a 20-kilometer exclusion radius around the volcano’s crater. A year later, many are still living in temporary shelters, despite government pledges to build them new homes in safer areas. “It’s all just talk, there are no new homes for us,” said Asihono, Mbah Maridjan’s third son and Merapi’s new keeper. “There are now 2,863 families from Kinorejo who are still waiting for the homes,” he adds, referring to his father’s home village in Yogyakarta’s Sleman district. “The situation in Kinorejo is as you’d expect: everything is scorched and it’s going to take a long time before it returns to the way it was. In the year that we’ve lived in the shelter, we’ve only received government aid three times.” The story is much the same for the residents of nearby Wukirsari and Ngancar villages, where residents have slowly returned and now live in tiny bamboo shacks. The government previously said it would build 2,600 new homes in Wukirsari, but it has only completed 600. “We don’t know what to do,” said Basuki, a villager. “We’re having to make do as best as we can while we wait for the government’s next move.” In Ngancar, the main concern now is how the flimsy shacks will cope with the imminent monsoons. “It’s not just about leaky roofs,” said village chief Teguh. “We’re also worried because the drainage system no longer works. We just want permanent homes so we can get on with our lives.” –Jakarta Globe
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10 Responses to The myth of disaster recovery: Thousands still homeless a year after eruption of Merapi

  1. Paula says:

    Once upon a time, neighbors helped neighbors and communities bore the brunt of disasters with volunteers rushing to help. Read the story of the great Johnstown Flood- people did not use to wait for “government” to rebuild their houses, businesses, schools and give them a credit card for food as well. The time of bread and circuses in the West is over and we all need to step up into self reliance, helping our neighbors, and handling disaster after disaster because that seems to be our calling. The government collects our monies, pays itself in salaries, benefits and budgets and then hands some of it back to some of us some of the time. We cannot rely on government and I hope we can keep helping those who suffer.
    Blessings to all, Paula

    • Tomwe says:

      I like driving on roads, crossing bridges, going to the library, using the Postal Service, sending my kids to school, getting snow plowed, having airplanes inspected before flying, eating food that has been checked, not choking on the air, not having toxic waste dumped near my house, getting emergency relief when needed, having the police show up if I need them, and not worrying if my house will burn down if there are no fire-fighters.
      I don’t want to figure out how many chickens to take to my doctor to pay for my medical expenses. I do also not favor insurance company death-panels. People helping people is vital, and I volunteer a lot, but in our increasingly complex society, government is important. I am proud to live in America where I am not on my own but have support when I need it, unlike Somalia where there is no government to “bother” anyone. Some neighbors do not help others particulary if they look different or are from a different faith-community. I don’t want to rely upon the “kindness of strangers” if something bad happens. We are Americans who share many aspects of our lives and many interests, and somebody needs to keep the scam-artists artists away. Read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair to see what it’s like when people can get away with what they want.

    • nickk0 says:

      Unfortunately, I have to agree.
      I’m afraid the day will come – soon – when Governments around the world (US included) will not be able to provide assistance to citizens any longer.

      - Nick

  2. Very interesting, it seems as if there many different types of disasters taking place.

  3. True, Paula.

    Many of us in Los Alamos never fully recovered from the Cerro Grande fire of 2000, which destroyed many homes, including mine. FEMA took over most insurances, because the
    fault for the fire was assigned to government agents who did a controlled burn on a day
    when winds of 60 MPH were headed directly for town. FEMA did not pay us for years and
    made us grovel, sending in receipts for losses through five agents’ tenure, and in the meanwhile
    some of could not buy another home where we wished to. Our town did pull together very
    well,as we did again in this summer’s Las Conchas fire, which was four times as large as the
    Cerro Grande fire, but was kept out of town by 1000 firefighters. Indian lands were badly
    damaged by this fire, though, especially sacred lands in Bandelier and Santa Clara pueblo.
    I thought it was ironic that the firefighters saved our town and did little for the Indians.

    The smoke made us sick long after the fire was supposedly out. Everyone was exhausted
    and many were ill. This time, my insurance company compensated me quickly for cleanup
    and loss-of-use. Better than FEMA! I am afraid I have little use for FEMA (understatement).

    • Paula says:

      Bless You and your family Mariel!! I am glad to hear you made it through. We had major fires here in the Rockies as well so I know what its like.

  4. . . . and to think that volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts and other natural and manmade disasters are still coming our way in bunches.

  5. Evo says:

    Spot on, Paula.

  6. Bone Idle says:

    If you want to read about Indonesians made homeless by geologic activities, read up about the “Lusi” – Sidoarjo mud flow in Java.

  7. Michele B says:

    I am noticing that Al Jazeera (sp?) news seems often to have more thorough and independent coverage than many or most of our news agencies. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I have to confess I am a bit.

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