Jakarta. With the ongoing eruption of Mount Merapi in Central Java dominating headlines, government officials have urged Indonesians to prepare for natural disasters and not to panic over reports that at least 15 other volcanoes are on heightened alert status.
“This is a natural phenomenon, especially because Indonesia is located in an area where there are a lot of volcanoes,” Raden Sukhyar, chief of the geology department at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, said on Wednesday.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the director of risk reduction at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said: “There are at least 125 volcanoes in this country, that’s about 13 percent of the total number of volcanoes in the world; we have to be ready any time an eruption happens.
“Panic will not help, but a good plan to anticipate the disaster will.”
Raden said many volcanoes in Indonesia are relatively active and eruptions could happen at any time.
“But that’s not the point, we can’t prevent eruptions. What we can do is strengthen our disaster mitigation system so when the eruptions happen, there will be no victims,” he said.
Raden said that living with volcanoes was not necessarily a bad thing, because volcanic residue had also made Indonesian land very fertile.
“Which means a lot of people can make their living from it.”
Currently, he said, many people are worried because of rising volcanic activity in several places, including Anak Krakatau in Lampung, Papandayan in West Java and Bromo in East Java.
Raden said Anak Krakatau was almost always on alert status.
However, he said, the material spewed by the mountain has never reached a residential area.
“It usually only spurts volcanic ash and other material a few hundreds meters,” he said, adding that the closest inhabited villages are 42 kilometers from Anak Krakatau.
Raden said the government has banned anyone from going within a two-kilometer radius of its peak.
He also said there was no connection between the eruption in Merapi that has killed more than 40 people and forced some 60,000 others to flee, and the heightened status of other volcanoes.
Sutopo said that due to the heightened alerts, the agency has made contingency plans to anticipate eruptions.
“We are working according to our standard operating procedure,” he said.
He said that when a volcano is at normal alert level, BNPB conducts campaigns to raise awareness about what to do in case of an eruption.
If the alert level rises, the agency makes contingency plans, and if the volcano is on the highest alert status, the agency arranges evacuation routes, meeting points and shelters, Sutopo said.