Villagers don't want to evacuate despite Mt Sinabung eruptions

Villagers don't want to evacuate despite Mt Sinabung eruptions
An Indonesian woman looks on as the Mount Sinabung volcano spews ash as seen from the nearest village in Karo district, North Sumatra province, on June 16, 2015. More than 1,200 Indonesian villagers were evacuated June 15 from their homes close to a rumbling volcano on Sumatra island, an official said.
PHOTO: AFP

Hundreds of villagers living near Mount Sinabung, one of Indonesia's 130 active volcanoes, have been forced to evacuate as authorities fear a major eruption.

The volcano had been dormant for more than 400 years when it became active again on Aug 29, 2010. It has since erupted on six occasions.

Experts quoted by the Associated Press said they are worried that a major eruption may occur and the alert status is now at the highest level as a result.

But not all villagers living near the volcano are willing to move to a safer location, reports said.

Mr Subur Tambun, who heads the local disaster mitigation agency, was quoted as saying that only 10,000 of about 33,000 people living within the main danger zone have moved into tent camps.

He said the villagers are worried that their crops will be destroyed if they leave their homes, adding that the villagers are confident of escaping if a major eruption happens.

"All we can do is ask them to leave," Mr Subur was quoted as saying.

SHELTERS

For days, the authorities have pleaded with villagers in the main danger zone to move to the temporary shelters, but have faced resistance.

Mr Armen Putra, head of the volcano observation post, said Mount Sinabung was spewing rocks and hot gas over a distance of 3km, AFP reported.

He said: "We could still feel tremors. Ash up to 2mm thick covered roads and homes located 15km away. It could take weeks before it eases, but for now it is dangerous for people living nearby, so we have recommended that they evacuate."

Any eruption could also have a devastating economic impact. Indeed, the disaster agency estimated Sinabung caused more than US$100 million (S$133 million) in damages when it erupted thrice last year.

Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.


This article was first published on June 19, 2015.
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