12/09/2021, 11.01
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Semeru residents denounce failure to warn of volcano eruption

by Mathias Hariyadi

The death toll has risen to 40. The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has rejected the accusations. Caritas is working to provide food and drink to thousands of displaced people.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After the eruption of the Semeru volcano on December 4, Indonesian civil society has denounced the authorities failure to provide a warning: "If the alarm had been raised in time, more people could have been saved," said local residents. 

The head of the Indonesian Volcanology and Disaster Mitigation Geology (PVMBG) of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, however, rejected the accusations, saying that local authorities had been warned: on December 2, the PVMBG had tweeted an alert message, warning that several villages in the districts of Lumajang and Malang were at risk of being affected.

Ashes and lapilli from the crater engulfed entire villages on the slopes of the mountain, killing at least 40 people. There are also at least 20 missing and thousands of displaced people. 

Volcanologist Surono explained that the high mortality linked to this type of natural disaster is due to inadequate housing plans, and to economic reasons or family traditions that push people to continue living in areas at high risk of volcanic eruption. Indonesia is home to 127 active volcanoes, but only 69 are monitored by the PVMBG. 

Fr. Marco O.Carm, of Caritas in the Diocese of Malang, told AsiaNews that he was able to establish a food distribution point for displaced people in Pronojiwo, despite the collapse of the Gladag Perak bridge, which served as the main link between the two affected districts. "With the collapse of the bridge, we had to divert humanitarian aid via Probolinggo to reach Pronojiwo in 3-4 hours of travel time," the Carmelite explained.

Over 2,000 survivors have found temporary shelter in Pronojiwo, Candipuro and Pasirian. Fr. Marco's assistent, Rudy, said that the establishment of "chicken soup posts" (food and drink distribution points) "is an urgent matter". Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency confirmed that nearly 3 thousand homes and at least 38 schools have been destroyed.

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