200 Merapi climbers trapped by forest fires

200 Merapi climbers trapped by forest fires
A view of the volcano Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
PHOTO: Lynne Hong

Around 200 climbers on Mount Merapi are reportedly trapped on the mountain by forest fires in Selo district.

It was reported by tempo.co that fires in the area first ignited on a cliff near the Post 1 trekking route at around 9 a.m. on Sunday. The fires then began to spread but have not yet fully covered the climbing route.

The Boyolali Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BPBD) Kurniawan Fajar Prasetyo said that his team and Search and Rescue (SAR) teams and local residents were working together. “We are striving to ensure that all hikers can be brought down,” he said as quoted by tempo.co on Sunday.

Kurniawan said most of the climbers departed from the Barameru Post in Selo on Friday. Around 100 out of the 300 hikers that departed to the post have already been evacuated, he said.

Kurniawan further said the BPBD Boyolali had also provided a medical team in anticipation of health problems that might’ve affected the hikers. The health condition of the climbers already reached, he said, had been quite good. Some of the rescued climbers had returned home, he added, while others were still waiting for their friends who remained trapped.

Kurniawan said it was expected that the evacuation process would be completed soon. “We are also striving to prevent the fires from spreading further," said the SAR Boyolali team coordinator.

While evacuating the track, the dispatched personnel were also working on extinguishing the fires around Post 1. If the fires were not immediately extinguished, Kurniawan said, it was possible they would expand further, covering the trekking routes. So far, he added, the team was extinguishing the fires manually.

The cause of the fires and the total area of forest burned down remains unknown.

Michael, 27, a hiker from Salatiga, Central Java, said he was worried when he got information that forests in Mt. Merapi were burning.

Departing to the mountain on Friday evening, Michael, who was climbing with a friend, was picked up by the SAR team when they were at Post 2. “Many climbers have not yet been rescued from there,” he said.

BPBD Boyolali head Nur Khamdani said although most of the hikers had not yet been reached, they were all in safe areas a long way from the fires. Rescue personnel had also set up alternative routes to evacuate the climbers.

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