Indonesia: Ili Lewotolok Volcano Eruption, DREF n° MDRID019 Operation Final Report

Situation Report
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Description of the disaster

Ili Lewotolok Eruption

On Sunday, 29 November 2020 at 13.00 Central Indonesia Time (GMT+8), Indonesia’s Centre for Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi – PVMBG) raised the alert level of Ili Lewotolok Volcano from Level 2 (advisory) to Level 3 (watch/alert) after an increase in volcanic activity. The volcano is in the northern part of Lembata Island, East Nusa Tenggara Province. Between 29 November to 31 December 2020, Ili Lewotolok Volcano recorded approximately 137 eruptions. The height of the ash columns was recorded between 200 – 4,000 meters above the peak of the volcano. PVMBG advised villagers in the vicinity of Ili Lewotolok Volcano to keep a safe distance of 4 kilometers from the main crater as the volcano spewed out a range of substances such as lava, hot gas, ash clouds, and rock fragments.

On 1 December 2020, following days of non-stop volcanic activities, Lembata District government issued a state of emergency for the whole Lembata District. The most severely affected areas were 26 villages in Ile Ape and Ile Ape Timur sub-districts, with a total population approximately 19,736 people. At the peak of the emergency phase, at least 9,044 people from the two subdistricts were temporarily displaced. The evacuees were dispersed across 13 evacuation centers throughout the district.
The number could be higher because many villagers preferred to seek shelter at their relatives’ houses in neighboring villages.
During the emergency phase, the condition of the evacuees was concerning. Many were suffering from injuries and illnesses related to volcanic eruption such as eye injuries, suffocation, skin irritation, and respiratory issues. Moreover, many evacuees left home without carrying any essential items with them. As a result, basic necessities such as hygiene kits, baby kits, blankets, sleeping mattresses, and tarpaulins were very much needed. Additionally, during the COVID19 pandemic, the risk of the virus spreading in confined spaces such as evacuation centers is high. This situation placed the evacuees in an even more vulnerable position. There was reported damage to houses and agriculture land due to hot ash. Villagers also lost hundreds of cattle that died from starvation after being left for weeks while villagers sought shelter in evacuation centers.

In January 2021, the government of Lembata district ended the state of emergency. As a result, evacuees gradually abandoned the temporary shelters and returned to their respective villages. The last batch of the evacuees from Jontona and Lamawolo villages, both located in disaster prone area III—returned home in February 2021. The volcano’s status remained on level 3 of the country’s fourtiered alert system. During this period, PVMBG had downscaled the danger zone from previously 4 kilometers to 3 kilometers from the main crater. Volcanic activity had reduced; however, significant volcanic activities such as eruption and ash clouds were still taking place. Villagers were expected to remain vigilant in case of re-escalation of volcanic activity. Upon the return of villagers, adversities caused by the volcanic activities still existed. Many villagers continued suffering from complications that were associated with exposure of volcanic materials. Moreover, there was an increased risk of water shortages in villages in the vicinity of the volcano due to contamination of harvested rainwater and well water, which are one of the main sources of water for the villagers.