Indonesia: Govt won't buy Bromo residents' livestock

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The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 01/03/2011 9:17 AM | Headlines

The East Java administration said it would not buy livestock from residents living near the erupting Mount Bromo due to a limited budget and lack of holding pens.

Administration spokesman Gunarto said in Probolinggo, East Java, over the weekend that it would be impossible for the administration to enact the scheme.

In the aftermath of the Mt. Merapi eruptions that killed more than 300 people in Yogyakarta and Central Java, the local administration there stepped up its livestock purchasing scheme after several residents who had evacuated the area reentered the exclusion zone to care for their animals, only to be killed by pyroclastic flows.

People living on the slopes of Mt. Bromo, which rises 2,329 meters above sea level, have called on the government to buy their livestock, citing fears of more powerful eruptions.

Gunarto said the administration could only facilitate a purchasing scheme.

"We can set up a scheme to get the residents to meet with buyers," he said after accompanying Governor Soekarwo on an inspection of a livestock market at Ngadirejo village in Sukapura district, Probolinggo.

At the market, 20 heads of cattle owned by residents living around Mt. Bromo were sold for between Rp 5 million (US$555) and Rp 6 million.

He said the government transported the cattle to the market, paying for it from the disaster management fund.

The government allocated Rp 2.5 billion from the fund to Probolinggo Regent Hasan Aminuddin, Gunarto said. The governor's entourage also inspected several houses that were covered in volcanic ash.

He called on residents to leave their houses, saying they were in imminent danger of collapsing.

"The ash can form a 20-centimeter-thick layer in a day," Gunarto said.

The government has set up temporary shelters at the PT Letjes building.

Once the residents have been evacuated, the administration plans to send in police and soldiers to clear ash from the houses.

"When it's cleared and declared safe, residents may return to their houses," Gunarto said.

Residents have also been cautioned to stay at least 2 kilometers away from the volcano.

Meanwhile, Mt. Semeru, which at 3,676 meters above sea level is the highest mountain in Java, has reportedly started spewing smoke, with volcanic tremors also observed.

However, authorities claim there was no immediate danger, but have set up a 4-kilometer exclusion zone around the crater as a precaution.

"It's still safe but we will continue to monitor the situation and follow developments," monitoring officer Arifin said.

The governor instructed the local administration to prepare for the worst. The disaster management center at Lumajang said in the event of an eruption, six districts in the regency would be affected.

In the Sunda Strait, Mt. Anak Krakatau has reportedly shown no indications of decreasing volcanic activity while authorities remain unable to monitor the tremors because of malfunctioning sensors.

"We have not been able to monitor the volcano for the past three days because the seismometer's solar panel is buried by ash," monitoring team head Anton S. Pambudi told Antara news agency.