Nov 3, 2010


Mouintain Merapi volcano erupts, tsunami aid effort slow

  • Nov 3, 2010
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  • Indonesia's Mount Merapi spewed more heat clouds and ash on Monday as the country struggled to care for 65,000 people displaced by the volcano and a deadly tsunami.
    The gray smoke shot high into the sky and rolled down the slopes of the 2,914-Metre Mount Merapi six times after dawn, spreading fear and panic as the government issued an alert telling airlines to avoid the skies over central Java. Almost 40 people have been killed since Merapi began erupting last week. The government vulcanologist Subandrio mentioned that volcano could continue for weeks ahead, even months.

    About 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) to the west, officials said aid was slowly reaching survivors of a tsunami which ravaged coastal villages on the Mentawai island chain off the coast of Sumatra last Monday.

    The latest official death toll stood at 431 and 88 missing, feared dead, and almost 15,000 made homeless.

    Emergency response officials denied reports that aid is rotting in ports as desperate survivors scavenge for wild roots a week after the disaster, which struck in an area that scientists have long warned is vulnerable to tsunamis.

    "The delays were due to unfriendly weather. But now we can reach the affected areas and aid is being sent, although it's limited," official Joskamatir said.

    He dismissed reports of looting, poor coordination of the relief effort and food going bad on the docks as "untrue".

    "The relief operations are going very smoothly," he added.

    The three-metre wave was triggered by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake and flattened around 10 villages, destroying schools, mosques and traditional homes along remote and undeveloped beaches popular with foreign surfers.

    Survivors have complained that aid has been too slow to reach them, and relief workers have said coordination has been poor.

    One villager complained on Saturday that, he had been surviving on wild taro roots because aid still had not reached his devastated village, where he said about half of population had been killed and all survivors in Pagai island
    had been "surviving on yams and bananas".
    Demas Sakerebau, village chief said aid had reached one hamlet for the first time only on Sunday and described relief packages being dropped by helicopters into the sea, flooded rice paddies and trees.

    "Only part of the aid has reached the residents. It wasn't enough," he added.

    Officials admit that only a fraction of supplies such as food, water, tents, medicine and blankets that have reached nearby ports have been distributed to survivors, citing bad weather and a lack of boats and helicopters.

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