Among the evacuees living near Indonesia’s Mount Merapi, which has erupted multiple times since October 26, are children and families being served by SOS Children’s Villages. These families participate in the family strengthening program run by SOS in Lembang, in central Java. Like thousands of other villagers, the SOS families fled the lethal hot air and debris sprouting from the nation’s most volatile volcano.
The families are now staying in temporary camps in the town of Yogyakarta. Gregor Nitihardjo, national director of SOS Children’s Villages-Indonesia, is currently in Yogyakarta to get first-hand information about the situation.
Two other programs run by SOS Children’s Villages have also been directly affected. The Mutiara Abadi SOS Children’s Center at Umbulharjo Village, Cangkringan, Sleman, only 1.5 miles from the peak; and the Aditya Yodha SOS Children’s Center at Turi Village, also in Sleman. These centers were created after the region’s 2006 earthquake and have became very popular. They are run by community volunteers, SOS youths, and SOS family strengthening program staff.
The Indonesian government, which had advance warning of volcanic activity, is running 10 shelters in three districts — Magelang, Klaten and Boyolali — that lie outside the 6-mile danger zone. The shelters are housing more than 22,000 villagers.
Dangers of Volcanic Ash
The volcanic eruptions left a blanket of ash over whole neighborhoods on Mount Merapi’s southern slope, according to IRIN news service. At least 28 people are confirmed dead and 90 hospitalized for burns. Volcanic explosions of this sort can lead to skin and lung burns, asphyxiation, conjunctivitis, and acute respiratory problems, according to the World Health Organization.
Local media reported that a three-month-old baby died after experiencing respiratory problems.
Indonesia Also Coping with Tsunami Off of Western Sumatra
Mount Merapi burst its lava dome one day after a tsunami slammed into Indonesia’s island of Sumatra near Padang, 800 miles to the west. The tsunami was caused by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake on October 25 that hit 47 miles west of South Pagai, one of the Mentawai islands. SOS Children’s Villages does not have any projects in the area. At least 108 are dead, hundreds are missing, and thousands are homeless.
According to Reuters, most of the coastal village of Betu Monga was wiped out. Of 200 villagers, 160 are still missing, mostly women and children. Said a local official by phone, “We have people reporting to the security post here that they could not hold on to their children, that they were swept away. A lot of people are crying.”
Read updates and learn more at SOS Children’s Villages.