Mount Sinabung evacuees face clean water shortage

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Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Karo | Archipelago | Tue, November 10 2015, 3:04 PM

Thousands of families affected by the continuous eruption of Mount Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra, are reportedly experiencing a shortage of clean water and are being forced to survive on rain and river water for their daily needs.

One of the evacuees from Perbaji village, Cana Sembiring, 40, said the water crisis at the shelters has been taking place for the last six months and was partly caused by a faulty pipe network from the Lau Makam spring.

“We have been experiencing a clean water shortage at shelters for six months because of the faulty pipeline and spring, as they have been damaged by a cold lava flow from the Mt. Sinabung eruption,” Cana told The Jakarta Post in Tiganderket district on Monday.

He said evacuees have been forced to use rain and river water for cooking, bathing and washing since the crisis began.

He added residents had informed the government of the problem, but it had yet to be solved.

Another evacuee, Rudi Singarimbun from Mardinding village, said the regency administration had earlier built a 4.5-kilometer pipeline from the Lau Makam spring to Sukatendel village early this year.

Rudi said in addition to Sukatendel village, water pipelines had also been installed to supply the Kuta Mbaru and Temburun villages, but after handing them over to the communities they functioned for only two days and not a drop of water appeared out of them after that.

Meanwhile, the head of the Karo chapter of the Indonesian Volunteers Community (MRI), Susanto Ginting, expressed concern over the plight of the Sinabung evacuees.

He said his group had provided clean water to the evacuees by deploying 5,000-liter tankers to nine shelters. “We have already provided 50 tons of clean water to the shelters, but obviously the assistance is far from adequate,” said Susanto.

Susanto hoped the government would respond to the issue currently faced by the evacuees, such as providing deep-water wells to supply water to the shelters and affected villages until the eruption stops.

When reached for confirmation, Karo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Matius Sembiring declined to comment on the water crisis at the shelters, but acknowledged that thousands of residents were still taking shelter because of the eruption.

“Today, Mt. Sinabung is still erupting and discharging hot clouds as far as 2,500 meters and volcanic ash as high as 1,000 meters toward the southeast. However, today’s eruption was not as big as yesterday’s,” Matius said on Monday.

He added the eruption for the past couple of days had not affected people’s daily activities because of its mildness.

Matius said the BPBD had appealed to residents not to enter a 5-km radius of the volcano following the increase in volcanic activities.

“As of now, the status of the volcano remains ‘alert’, but we urge residents to remain cautious and not to enter the danger zone,” said Matius.

Since it began erupting in September 2013, Mt. Sinabung has never entirely stopped. 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. - See more at: