INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: East Java's Mt. Kelud Volcano: Eruption Threat Remains While

Published: Thu 18 Oct 2007 10:54 AM
VZCZCXRO7582
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0058/01 2911054
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181054Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0081
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0005
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA PRIORITY 0073
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0022
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0024
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0083
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SURABAYA 000058
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
DEPT PLEASE PASS AID FOR OFDA
DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS
JAKARTA FOR AID (NAKATSUMA)
BANGKOK FOR RDM ASIA/OFDA (BARTON)
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PGOV ECON ID
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA'S MT. KELUD VOLCANO: ERUPTION THREAT REMAINS WHILE
EVACUEES RETURN HOME
SURABAYA 00000058 001.4 OF 002
1. Increased seismic activity on Mt. Kelud, a volcano 90 km
southwest of Surabaya, East Java caused authorities to raise
the eruption threat level to 4, the highest possible.
Authorities recommended the voluntary evacuation of residents
within 10 kilometers of the mountain on October 16. Consulate
General Surabaya Pol/Econ Officer visited two refugee centers
and an Indonesian Army (TNI) refugee assistance staging area on
17 October. These sites are all within 15 kilometers of Mt.
Kelud. One center is located in the town of Ngancar in Kediri
Regency; the other center and TNI staging area are located in
the town of Penataran in Blitar Regency. Kelud last erupted in
1990, killing at least 30 people according to press reports. A
1919 eruption claimed an estimated 5,000 lives.
ERUPTION "IMMINENT," BUT WHO KNOWS WHEN
--------------------------------------------- -----------------
2. As of 18 October, the warning status for Mt. Kelud remains at
the highest level according to the Center for Volcanology and
Geological Hazard Mitigation. The Center's Head, Dr. Surono has
told the press that while tremors have decreased in frequency,
their amplitude and force remain strong according to instruments
on the volcano itself. According to Surono, another clear
warning sign of a possible eruption is the continued temperature
increase in the caldera at 15m deep. Temperatures at this depth
rose to 37.8 degrees centigrade on October 16 and to 38 degrees
centigrade on October 17. The deformation process in the crater
is also increasing, suggesting that an eruption is "imminent."
3. The National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management
(BAKORNAS PB) reported October 18 that a total of 22,154 persons
had been displaced: 10,803 in Kediri district and 11,351 in
Blitar. BAKORNAS reported that the number of persons displaced
in Kediri had dropped from a high of 28,130 as villagers
returned to their homes. According to the UN Office for
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), World Food
Program (WFP) and UNICEF teams visited Blitar and Kediri to
conduct rapid assessments. They reported that the number of
displaced persons is decreasing and that the situation is not
alarming.
VILLAGERS HEAD HOME
-------------------------------
4. Police and Indonesian Red Cross sources at the camps told
Pol/Econ Officer that 2000-3000 people were transported, or made
their own way, to established shelters 15km away from Mt. Kelud
in towns to the west and south of the volcano. However, the
vast majority had returned home by noon on 17 October due to
concerns over the security of their homes and animals.
Displaced persons in Penataran told Pol/Econ Officer that many
people were unwilling to leave during the initial call for
voluntary evacuation. Local press reported that an elderly
woman in the village of Sugihwaras convinced her fellow
villagers not to leave for refugee centers in Ngancar. She said
"Kelud will not erupt -- the signs are not yet there for an
eruption, and anyway Mt. Kelud would not harm the people of this
village."
5. During Pol/Econ Officer's visit, village officials and
Indonesian Red Cross workers at an elementary school in Ngancar
were preparing food for a possible return of displaced persons
later in the day. Villages had been evacuated en masse and
villagers kept together in the shelter. Signs posted on
Ngancar's lampposts guided villagers to their respective
shelters. The refugee center had registered 1,135 displaced
persons by dawn on 17 October, however all but a few had
returned to their village by 2 pm. The situation at Penataran
was quiet too. Pol/Econ Officer spoke with six men who had left
their coffee fields to stay in the shelter. They said 100
people remained scattered at shelters located in a village
office and school, but the numbers were dwindling. Villagers
with animals to look after felt pressure to return home.
NATIONAL RESPONSE
----------------------------
6. According to UNOCHA, BAKORNAS held a coordination meeting
October 17 at the Crisis Center in Jakarta led by the Deputy for
Emergency Response and attended by relevant government
institutions to coordinate emergency supplies distributed to
affected areas. The Department of Social Affairs has prepared
SURABAYA 00000058 002.4 OF 002
100 tons of rice at each district level and 200 tons of rice at
the provincial level. Tents for public kitchens, clothing,
ready-to-eat meals, and 1.5 tons of baby food supplements have
been prepared for distribution. The Department of Health has
already mobilized 50 doctors and 50 medical staff for 41 medical
services in Kediri and Blitar with the support from community
health posts (Puskesmas). 100,000 masks have also been
distributed in Kediri, Blitar, and Malang districts.
7. The TNI unit assigned to Penataran set up tents and a field
kitchen in an open area on the main street. A TNI officer
displayed for Pol/Econ Officer a topographic map of Kelud and
the surrounding villages. Approximately one hundred small
villages were color coded to indicate their vulnerability in the
event of an eruption. The TNI will use trucks to transport
affected residents to assembly points 50km away if there is a
serious eruption. One TNI officer said their unit in Penataran
stood ready with seven tons of rice supplied by the Blitar
Regency. The Governor assured journalists that the province
stands ready with 500-1000 tons of rice, and the Blitar Regency
has 200 tons of which 28 tons had been distributed already.
Questions from journalists regarding rumors of inadequate food
supplies had earlier reportedly angered the Governor of East
Java during his October 17 inspection tour of the centers. Some
media outlets have reported that the people in charge of
providing food are running into difficulties due to inaccurate
counts of the numbers displaced
8. COMMENT: Provincial and local government offices appeared to
have the organization in place to handle a mass evacuation.
Their challenge remains convincing villagers to leave in time to
reach safety. Media reports that at least one village is
staying put based on the assessment of a village elder. Similar
statements by other local leaders could occur elsewhere, and
hamper evacuation efforts. Additionally, the longer it takes Mt.
Kelud to erupt, the harder it will be to convince residents of
the necessity of evacuating. END COMMENT.MCCLELLAND
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media