Sinabung area residents lack food, clean water

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Thousands of residents in 16 subdistricts around Mount Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra, are badly in need of clean water, after withstanding the effects of the volcano’s eruptions from their houses for almost two weeks.

Indonesian Volunteer Community chairman Susanto said that many of the affected residents were going hungry as they had begun running out of food on Wednesday. He added that the regency administration had yet to allow the residents to move although volcanic activities continued to increase.

“The condition of all the [residents] in the 16 subdistricts is very concerning. They are really in need of food and clean water,” Susanto told reporters on Wednesday.

The 16 affected subdistricts include Guru Kinayan, Cimbang, Ujung Payung, Rimo Kayu, Payung, Selandi and Batu Karang in Payung district; Naman, Gung Pintu, Kuta Rayat, Suka Ndebi and Ndeskati in Naman Teran district; Tiga Nderket, Perbaji and Mardinding in Tiga Nderket district; and Tiga Pancur subdistrict in Simpang Empat district.

Susanto said that the residents no longer had money to buy food because their agricultural plantations had been affected by volcanic ash.

So far, according to Susanto, the only aid that affected residents had received from the regency administration was masks to protect them from the volcanic ash. No logistical aid had reached them, he said.

The Karo administration also reportedly had yet to spray water on residents’ plantations to get rid of volcanic ash, as it was focusing on cleaning up public facilities such as houses of worship, school buildings and streets.

Data from the Karo Agriculture Agency showed that 1,620 hectares of crops had been severely damaged by the eruptions, while 1,830 hectares were moderately damaged and another 42 hectares were lightly damaged.

Total financial losses suffered by residents due to crop damage are estimated to reach Rp 97.7 billion.

Karo administration spokesperson Jhonson Tarigan confirmed that no aid had been channeled to the residents affected by Mt. Sinabung’s eruptions who currently remained in their homes.

“We have limited [food] stocks here. What is left [...] is just side dishes allocated to the evacuees from last year’s eruptions,” Tarigan told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said the regency administration was making a proposal for aid to the provincial administration to help affected residents who remained in their homes.

Mt. Sinabung was continuing to erupt as of Wednesday. It had erupted four times as of 2 p.m. that day, spewing pyroclastic material and spreading volcanic ash.

The volcano’s searing lava reportedly destroyed buildings on Wednesday at about 9 a.m. in Suka Meriah subdistrict, which is located some 2.5 kilometers from the crater of the volcano.

No fatalities were reported following the incident because the subdistrict’s residents had not yet returned to their houses after being evacuated following volcanic eruptions last year.

“We suspect the burning was caused by lava because Suka Meriah has so far been one of the routes of the lava and pyroclastic flows,” said Sinabung Emergency Team commander Lt. Col. Asep Sukarno, who is also commander of the Karo Military District 02/05 command.

Suka Meriah, according to Asep, was located in a hazardous zone together with the subdistricts of Bekerah and Simacem, which accounted for the three areas remaining empty since last year’s eruptions.