Massive Lahar Flood Destroys Yogya’s Bridges
Yogyakarta. In the worst outflow of lahar since Central Java’s Mount Merapi erupted in October, a torrent of cold lava and mud from the volcano severed several bridges and cut off a main highway for almost 18 hours until Tuesday, officials said.
“In addition to destroying the Gempol main bridge on the Putih River, lahar also destroyed bridges in other villages, leading to the isolation of hundreds of residents in seven hamlets,” said Heri Prawoto, head of the Magelang district’s Disaster Management Office.
No casualties have been reported so far.
Heri said the flood overflowed from the Putih River in Jumaya village, Salam subdistrict, on Monday night, cutting off the Magelang-Yogyakarta highway at Kilometer 23 for almost 18 hours until about 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
More than 500 meters of the highway were submerged under meter-deep lahar.
It took seven heavy vehicles to dredge the mud.
“Police closed the highway to the public starting on Monday at 6 p.m. until Tuesday at 1 p.m.,” Heri said.
“We were really overwhelmed in trying to overcome the worst lava flooding since Mount Merapi stopped erupting.
“We’re worried about subsequent lahar floods as the rainfall is still high on the slope of the mountain.”
Police diverted the traffic heading to and from Yogyakarta at several locations.
Subandrio, the head of the Volcano Investigation and Technology Development Institution (BPPTK), said the lahar overflow on Monday evening was the most severe since the status of Merapi was downgraded from “stand-by” to” beware” at the end of December.
“For the umpteenth time, we warned the people against lahar floods, a secondary threat after the volcano’s eruption. If the rainfall reaches 20 millimeters per hour, as what happened on Monday night, the lahar will overflow into villages and roads,” Subandrio said.
Lahar can move down the slope of the volcano at a speed of more than 60 miles per hour (97 kmh) and kill anyone or damage anything in its path.
“We should not underestimate the lahar floods, and we urge people not to see the flow from a close range,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sleman district deputy chief Yuni Rahayu said the lahar flood had destroyed six bridges and a police office in Cangkringan subdistrict. “Our suffering was not really finished with the end to the volcano’s eruption. We do not know when the disaster will end,” he said.
Adj. Comr. Sudalidjo, head of the Cangkringan police, said their office — which was five meters away from the Opak River trailing along Merapi’s slope — was also hit by the lahar flood.
“In a very short time, our office was destroyed by the heavy flow of lahar. We could only save computer units, typewriters and other office equipment, but some records are still being tracked. All members of the police and the detainee could be evacuated. No injuries reported,” he said.