Friday, February 14, 2014

Churches provides shelter to villagers fleeing volcano

Churches provides shelter to villagers fleeing volcanoParishes of the Medan archdiocese have provided shelter and assistance to those affected by the eruption of Mount Sinabung, 55 miles south of Medanon Sumatra Island. 16 people were killed on February 1 after the volcanic eruption.

Father Andika Tarigs, who coordinates the Archdiocese of Medan's refugee relief operation, reported that around 29,000 local residents had to abandon land and livestock and flee their villages for safety.

A large number of the evacuees, nearly 1,100, have taken refuge in St. Peter and Paul parish, about three miles from Mount Sinabung.

Father Sebastianus Eka Bhakti Sutapa, rector of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Medan, said that the cathedral parish is assisting the diocese and other parishes in providing support to the displaced and Medan would be safe.

Father Sutapa said farmers were the worst affected by the volcano, losing crops and livestock. He cited an imminent need of monetary support, so that farmers can begin their lives again and children can continue their education.

Local authorities have warned residents eruptions might continue, and to remain away until further notice. 

Mount Sinabung was dormant for 400 years until 2010. It has erupted periodically since then and is now among 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

Just one day before the latest eruption, thousands of villagers were allowed to return to their homes on the slopes of the volcano despite the fact the volcano had been erupting sporadically for four months since last September.

Many in the rural island communities were desperate to return to check on their homes and farms, presenting a dilemma for the government.

But hundreds of villagers also demanded to be moved to safer areas because they were scared to go back.

Evacuee Naek Sembiring, one of 156 camping in a church since September, had told The Jakarta Post two months ago that his entire village had agreed not to return despite the situation being declared safe.

'Our village is nearest to Mount Sinabung. In the event of an eruption where would we run to?' he asked.

Those killed by the sudden eruption last week include a TV journalist, four high school students and their teacher who went to see Mount Sinabung up close after being told it was safe.

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. 

Despite volcanos being notoriously hard to predict, it is difficult to keep farmers away because the slopes of the mountains are highly fertile.

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