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Mt. Merapi – Fire, Death, and Rebirth

  • 12
  • 11
  • 2016

Early November 2016 was a time when many people living in Yogyakarta took time to remember the events of late October and early November 2010 when Mt. Merapi, one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in the world just north of Yogyakarta gave the performance of a lifetime – or as scientists have said, a once-in-a-hundred-years eruption.

Merapi erupting

As the eruption began, people were moved to evacuation camps and were not allowed to bring more than they could carry. As a result, many people lost everything as the lava covered their homes, their animals, and anything else that they had been forced to leave behind.

Little did they know that this disaster would end up changing many lives for the better. The 55 evacuation camps, some indoors and some outdoors, that were set up in and around Yogyakarta were not luxurious, but they were amazingly well designed and surprisingly comfortable.

Food and drink were provided to everyone on an ongoing basis. Communal kitchens were set up in each camp, and people were encouraged to participate in sharing their cooking expertise with each other. In addition, soldiers visited the camps and entertained children who would have otherwise been inactive and bored.

Merapi evacuation camp

Volunteers visited the camps to tutor children and to sit and commiserate with adults who were succumbing to depression. Groups of singers and artists visited camps to entertain the evacuees who were still not sure where their lives were headed. Private companies even came in to offer training and courses, especially computer courses and automotive training.

Basirun and His Family

Basirun’s whole house was buried under lava. He lost everything. About four months after the evacuation, he and his family were relocated to a temporary house, one of thousands that had been built quickly by the government to accommodate evacuees.

Merapi volcano

Less than two years later, Basirun’s family was moved to a permanent house along with other families from the same village. Basirun and his entire village of 130 families ended up living together in a small village in homes that were actually superior to the homes that had been destroyed.

People were compensated for their lost animals. Basirun and his friends bought a few cows and now sell the milk to a cooperative nearby.

People were given training in new skills. Basirun’s wife Fitrah and her friends were trained to make crackers and other kinds of snacks.

Today, Fitrah still makes crackers and snacks and runs a small store from their house, selling her own products, as well as sugar, rice, noodles, and eggs.

Basirun and Fitrah’s lives definitely improved in their new lifestyle, and the lava area has become a tourist attraction with small stores selling snacks, drinks, t-shirts, and more.

Long-term beneficial effects of the eruption come from the sand that was spewed forth during the eruption. Indonesians say that the sand from the belly of Merapi is the best quality and most fertile in all of Indonesia.

Merapi boulder

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