Residents Ignore Calls to Leave Island After Rokatenda Eruption
Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. Most residents in Palue Island, East Nusa Tenggara, have refused to be evacuated to a safer area following the minor eruption of Mount Rokatenda over the weekend.
“There is one subdistrict in Palue Island … [with] a population of 10,858. Only 2,675 people have evacuated while the majority … are still hanging on,” said Marten Adji, Palu’e subdistrict secretary.
Marten said that officers from the Maumere Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) unit, military, navy and paramedics from Sikka Health Agency had arrived on the island to persuade residents to be evacuated but failed.
Sikka Disaster Mitigation Agency secretary Yohanes Bechmans echoed Marten’s statement.
“The police and military officers helped us gather the residents to the post that made it easier [for us] to distribute aid and evacuation if the condition gets worse,” Yohanes said.
Yohanes said that food supplies were sufficient and that the distribution had gone well.
Sikka Health Agency head Delly Pasande said the agency sent 4,000 masks to the island.
“We have sent 4,000 masks to Palue Island to protect residents from the ashes that could cause upper respiratory tract infections [URTI],” Delly said.
Aside from masks, the agency has also deployed a team of paramedics to the Palue community health center.
“We also opened a post at the Palue community health center to make it easier [for us] to distribute masks and medicines to the islanders,” Delly said.
“There are enough paramedics, masks and medicines for now. We will coordinate with the Ende Health Agency if more paramedics are needed.”
East Nusa Tenggara Disaster Mitigation Agency head Tini Tadeus said that officers have evacuated residents who live on the slope of the mountain.
“Residents who were trapped on the slope of Mount Rokatenda have been evacuated by the joint officers from the police, military and navy,” Tini said.
Tini added that the agency still has logistical supplies for the next 10 days, but added that the residents will soon face a food crisis because all their crops have been destroyed by the ash.
Rokatenda has experienced increased volcanic activity since last November, prompting the evacuation of residents living on its slopes to Flores.
Its most destructive eruption was in August 1928, when an avalanche of debris displaced by the eruption caused a tsunami that killed several people.