More than 100,000 people in Indonesia were evacuated after being affected by a volcano eruption on February 14. Mount Kelud, on the island of Java, is situated 375 miles east of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta and had been rumbling for several weeks. Java is the most densely populated island of the country and due to a shortage of space, many live close to active volcanoes.
More than 100,000 have been evacuated as ash and debris blasted up to 12 miles into the air. In the village of Pandansari, situated four miles from Mount Kelud, an elderly couple was killed when the roof of their home collapsed as a result of the ash. In the same village, another victim was waiting to be evacuated when he was killed by a collapsing wall. Ratmo Pramono, a farmer who lives three miles from Mount Kelud, says, “It seemed like thousands of bombs were exploding when the eruption happened. I thought it would be the end of the world.” Although the volcano has calmed down, some believe that its rumbling could cause another eruption soon. “I am very worried about my farm and my cattle,” says a mother while watching the news in a government shelter.
The area of Mount Kelud is the main area for sugarcane plantations in Indonesia; however, Soemitroe Samadikoen, chairman of the Sugarcane Farmers Association, says, “Thankfully the impact of the eruption on the sugarcane plantations in the area is relatively small. We have a high stock, so we do not need to import sugar from other countries and we expect we can continue production fairly easy.”
As Indonesia has been affected by many volcano eruptions, some residents see it as a business opportunity. While shoveling ash and grit into sacks, they hope to be able to sell it for the use of construction or as a crop fertilizer. According to one collector, some companies could pay him up to $56 for a truck filled with ash and debris.
The volcano eruption did not only affect the residents who live close to the mountain. Airports in Surabaya, Malang, Yogyakarta, Solo and Bandung were all closed as a result of reduced sight and dangers. In addition, airline Virgin Australia has cancelled its flights to the Indonesian resort island Bali and the Thai resort island Phuket.
Right after the volcano erupted, Richard Craig, from Perth, was on an airplane on his way to the Indonesian capital Jakarta. He says, “It suddenly went really dark, even though it was light outside before. Then ash starting to come into the airplane through the air vent and the alarm went off several times. It was strange that the air traffic control was not aware of anything, but I guess it had just happened.” A spokesman of Jetstar said, “There was no volcanic activity reported to the flight crew; however, they were able to safely land the aircraft by following standard procedures.”
Some residents said the ash and debris was worse than the volcano eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010, which affected thousands of people in Indonesia. Earlier this month, the island of Sumatra was affected by an eruption of Mount Sinabung, killing more than 15 people.
By Diana Herst