02/05/2013, 00.00
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Critical situation for 2,000 Catholics forced to flee by Mt Rokatenda's eruption

by Mathias Hariyadi
Lava began spewing Saturday but only now the full extent of the situation has emerged. Most of the people displaced from the small island are Catholic. A priest born on the island sounded the alarm, asking for food, water and basic items. A Catholic activist says the first supplies are ready for delivery.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Some 2,000 people are still in a critical situation without food, water and shelter following the eruption of Mount Rokatenda last Saturday, a volcano located on the small island of Palu'e, Sikka Regency, East Nusa Tenggara province. Given the scant media coverage, the critical situation became clear thanks to priests and Catholic residents on the mostly Christian island. At present, the dioceses of Jakarta and Maumere have mobilised their resources to provide help to the people that have been displaced.

After abandoning their homes, residents sailed to neighbouring islands in Sikka and Maumere regencies on small fishing boats. But after three days, the situation remains critical.

No one has been killed or injured thus far, but displaced residents need food, water and other basic items, which local authorities are unprepared to provide.

For this reason, the dioceses of Jakarta and Maumere have stepped in to help the displaced, as Palu'e native Fr Hilde Tanga explained. The situation, he said, was still serious.

Irene Setiadi, from the KBKK charity group, told AsiaNews that clothing, blankets, cereals for children as well as water and food would be brought.

At 875 metres above sea level, Mount Rokatenda has caused problems for the residents before. The worst episode in recent history occurred in 1928 when a powerful tsunami followed the eruption.

Made up of thousands of islands and atolls, Indonesia is part of what scientists call the 'ring of fire' on the edge of the Pacific Ocean with intense seismic and volcanic activity caused by the movement of tectonic plates.

Most people still remember the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Aceh in December 2004, killing hundreds of thousands of people across Asia.

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