The reality of living on Indonesia's ring of fire


October 26, 2010

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    Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. Its name means "Mount of Fire." Photo: melihatindonesia

Today has been a sad day for me. I found out from the news that my old playing and hiking place — Mount Merapi in Jogjakarta, Indonesia — is completely devastated by wedus gembel (burning clouds) and volcanic ashes. Furthermore, one of Mount Merapi’s most famous people, Mbah (Grandfather) Marijan — a man who long had a mystical connection to the mountain — was found dead in his house. He was a respected figure who had always spread traditional wisdom on how to take care of Mount Merapi and its surrounding environment.

But yet another disaster struck Indonesia yesterday: a tsunami hit the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra. More sad feelings touched my heart. Twin disasters happening in one of the most seismically-active regions on the planet. This is the reality of living on the ring of fire.

From the Jakarta Post, I read that Tuesday's eruption of Mount Merapi killed at least 18 people, forced thousands to flee down its slopes and spewed burning ash and smoke high into the air on the island of Java. Meanwhile, off the coast of Sumatra — about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) west of the volcano — rescuers battled rough seas to reach Indonesia's Mentawai islands, where a 10-foot tsunami triggered by an earthquake swept away hundreds of homes. The waves killed at least 113 villagers and up to 500 others are missing.

Mercy Corps Indonesia is responding to the tsunami that hit Mentawai Island. Working together with the government through BPBD (Indonesia's Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Body), we are sending emergency supplies included thousands of tarpaulins and jerry cans.

In this time of grieving and shock, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) came to my mind. It’s been such popular word in response to disasters, and the better coordination, cooperation and synergy from government, organizations and communities are needed to implement better DRR. Together we can make it better and save lives in this volatile region of the world.