New eruption of Merapi fails to stop Catholics helping displaced
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The death toll from eruptions of Mount Merapi (Central Java) has risen to 100 dead and 66 seriously burned. Overnight a new eruption of the volcano killed another 49 people, added to the 38 victims killed in the first explosion last October 26.
Heavy ash falls with stones struck Yogyakarta, Klaten, Sleman and Magelang, now reduced to a ghost town. There are currently over 75 thousand displaced people and the authorities have extended the high risk area to 20 km from the crater.
Despite the rain of ash and lava, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Samarang have decided to remain in the areas at highest risk to bring relief to the population, housing displaced people in churches, schools and religious institutions.
Sister Teresa Wiji Kartini, the Children of Jesus Christ, says: "Along with dozens of volunteers we are committed to providing food and temporary shelter for refugees. Being with these people is the call of God to proclaim His love”. The decision to stay was taken after the evacuation of an orphanage, just 8 km from the volcano. The need to bring aid to the religious and children inspired some lay Catholics to build a clinic in Srumbung, a village situated just 7 km from the volcano, to help other residents. Now the area has been completely evacuated.
Andry Hartono, of the Panti Rapih Catholic Hospital in Yogyakarta and head of the surgery said that thousands of people are stuck on the slopes of the volcano and lying in makeshift shelters.
"The people are in shock and have no hope - he says -When I tried to talk to them, some didn’t even respond". Seeing the plight of these people, the doctor decided together with the nuns to set up a shelter, as well as a clinic, to humanely treat and feed these people.
"In doing this – he adds - I was helped by a Catholic woman who offered her home as a refuge and allowed us to host and provide lunch for 600 hungry and desperate people." Hartono said that all the Catholics of the archdiocese are contributing, materially and morally, to this small effort.