Merapi Evacuees Get Bamboo Homes

The Yogyakarta administration is preparing to build temporary bamboo homes for residents fleeing the eruptions on Mount Merapi.

The houses of many evacuees have been destroyed by pyroclastic flows.

Speaking after the Idul Adha (Islamic Day of Sacrifice) prayer at Maguwoharjo Stadium — temporarily a shelter — in Depok, Yogyakarta, on Wednesday, Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X said that in the first phase of the project, the administration would build 345 homes on the slopes of the world’s most active volcano.

“These first units will be for residents of Kinahrejo, Kepuharjo and Glagaharjo,” he said. These were the worst-hit areas in the wake of eruptions.

Since the first large eruption on Oct. 26, the disaster has claimed more than 250 lives and
displaced hundreds of thousands of survivors.

The governor said the shelters would be built on either the so-called Sultan ground or on fields belonging to the respective subdistrict administrations.

Provincial secretary Tri Harjun said the administration was still collecting data on the number of houses destroyed to decide on how many shelters would need to be built. “So far we have registered 2,300 [homes that were destroyed].”

He said the figure would probably change in the near future as a number of badly affected areas could not be accessed both due to thick layers of volcanic ash and threats of more pyroclastic flows.

Although Merapi has shown a decrease in intensity for the last few days, the Volcanic Technology Development and Research Center (BPPTK) in Yogyakarta continues to rate its volcanic activity as high.

As of Wednesday, Merapi remains on top alert, although the radius of the exclusion zone has been reduced from 20 kilometers (km) to 10 km in Boyolali and Klaten regencies and 15 km in Magelang regency in Central Java. Authorities have, however, maintained a 20-kilometer exclusion zone in Sleman regency in Yogyakarta.

Tri Harjun said that given the administration’s experience in managing the 2006 post-earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction program, the program to rebuild houses would take between six months and a year to complete.

“We cannot let evacuees stay too long in shelters as it would be not only bad for them but also disrupt the real function of the buildings currently used to evacuate them,” he said.

He added that a 28-square-meter shelter with separate rooms for parents and children would cost between Rp 6 million to Rp 6.5 million to build, meaning the total cost to build 2,300 shelters would be
Rp 14 billion.

“We have some commitments from sponsors to help provide these shelters. We are expecting more to join,” Tri Harjun said, adding that they were discussing possibilities of funding from the state budget.

He said work to prepare the 345 temporary homes had already started. “We should be ready to start assembling them three to four days after the emergency response period is declared over.”

Sleman Regent Sri Purnomo said his administration had surveyed potential areas to build the new homes, including setting up communal stables for evacuees to house their livestock, in the three subdistricts of Umbulharjo, Kepuharjo and Glagaharjo in Cangkringan district.

“What is important is we try our best not to make the shelters completely change the way the locals live their lives,” he said.

He also said he would consult with experts in deciding whether to allow back residents whose villages were completely destroyed by the eruptions, or to relocate them to safer places.

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