May 2015 – INDONESIA – Monitoring officials have warned residents to remain alert as Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra continues with intense volcanic activity. A local chief reported that ongoing eruptions had taken a mental toll on residents, with two people being sent to mental institutions. The volcano erupted twice early on Wednesday, at 1:21 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., and sent hot clouds southward. The Sinabung observation station recorded at least 87 tectonic quakes and lava flow from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. Observation station staff member Deri Alhidayat said the volcanic intensity over the past few days had shown a significant increase, evident from the tectonic quakes occurring thus far. “Tectonic shock waves have been detected almost every day. As many as 20 tectonic and volcanic quakes have taken place today alone,” said Deri on Wednesday. He added the eruptions were expected to continue for a long time.
He urged residents living around the mountain to raise their awareness until the government issued an official announcement on the volcano’s status. Residents in Karo regency, especially those living around the volcano, are said to be depressed as the volcano has continued to erupt for almost five years with no sign of stopping. Pelin Sembiring, the chief of Guru Kinayan village, which is also affected by the eruption, said many residents had suffered from depression from the impacts of the eruptions. Two of his residents had to be treated at the Simalingkar mental hospital in Medan, North Sumatra, for severe depression as all their belongings had been destroyed and their farms, which they relied upon as a source of income, had been damaged by volcanic ash and pyroclastic flows. “Many residents are mentally depressed because they couldn’t stand facing the impacts of the eruption disaster which prevails up until now,” said Pelin.
Pelin also complained about a lack of government attention for victims, who have to fend for themselves to survive. “It has already been nine months since we, from seven relocated villages, have not received living allowances,” said Pelin, adding the last time they had received living allowances was in August 2014. Each of the victims was supposed to receive Rp 6,000 (50 US cents) in addition to 0.4 kilograms of rice daily. North Sumatra provincial council deputy speaker Ruben Tarigan, a Karo community figure, expressed concern over the lack of attention from the government. “This year, the North Sumatra provincial administration only earmarked Rp 1.5 billion to deal with eruption victims,” said Ruben. Karo Regent Terkelin Brahmana said the budget for disaster mitigation this year was smaller compared to last year. “Last year, the Karo regency administration allocated Rp 12 billion to deal with eruption victims, but the amount dropped to Rp 3 billion this year,” said Terkelin.
Terkelin acknowledged that the budget for eruption victims was smaller this year, but would increase next year. Terkelin said he and Vice Governor Erry Nuradi met with National Disaster Mitigation Agency officials a few days ago in Jakarta and discussed victim handling. In the meeting, Terkelin said, he submitted a budget of Rp 6.9 trillion to the central government for the overall management of the Mt. Sinabung eruption disaster. Since an eruption in September 2013, Mt. Sinabung has never entirely stopped its activity. Thousands of residents moved away at that time, only returning home last month after the volcano showed decreased activity. The eruptions have killed at least 17 people and destroyed thousands of houses and hectares of farmland. –Jakarta Post