North Sumatra: Volcano evacuees in dire need of blankets, masks and sleeping mats

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Mt. Sinabung volcano erupted in North Sumatra

“The weather is very cold and children are at a risk sleeping on dirty floors without beddings. Their critical needs now are blankets, masks and sleeping mats,” said Yacobus Runtuwene, World Vision’s assessment team leader. The assessment team travelled from the capital city of Medan to reach the first shelter in Brastagi.

After being dormant for more than four centuries, Mt. Sinabung located in Karo regency, North Sumatra first erupted early Sunday morning leaving two people dead and displacing thousands living along its slope. The latest reports indicate there are now 28,711 evacuees after the volcano erupted a second time on Monday.

“I witnessed the flash fire in the mountain. We panicked and evacuated to the forest. After an hour, an army truck came picked us up and brought us to this camp,” said Rizal Singarimbun, one of the villagers who lives about a kilometre away from the volcano. The volcano spews ash and smoke up to 2,000 meters high.

Evacuees have no space to move around with each camp overcrowded with people, and sanitation has become one of the main challenges. In Jambur Taras camp alone, there are more than 2,000 people.

“Respiratory problems is one of the major issues as families sleep on cold and dirty floors and some evacuees were reported to be in poor health,” said Runtuwene. Most of them stay in community centres that don’t have walls.

World Vision’s assessment team reached the hardest hit sub-districts, namely Namanteran, Simpang Empat, Payung and Tiganderket in Tanah Karo District, North Sumatra, one day after Mt. Sinabung’s first eruption. At present, there are 19 shelters in the four sub-districts.

An assessment report from the government will determine if the mountain is safe enough for people could return to their villages.

Indonesia has the highest density of volcanoes in the world. The 5,000-km-long archipelago nation is located in the “Belt of Fire”, with about 120 of its more than 400 volcanoes active and 68 listed as dangerous.

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