Chaos around Mount Merapi
The chaos around Mount Merapi has been increasing by the day, and the death toll has now surpassed 190. A mass exodus of people fleeing from nearby villages has turned Yogyakarta into a tent city. SOS Children has established 11 new camps where more than 6,000 children and mothers are staying. We have set up a public kitchen and made arrangements for the families to receive milk and food. The victims in the camps are supported by the SOS Family Strengthening Programme and are increasing by the day.
We have organised a session on trauma counselling for two hundred volunteers which will take place in the home of Martanti, the Family Strengthening Programme Coordinator for Yogyakarta Town. On Saturday, Mr. Irfan Nugoho and Mrs. Ilma Sofri Yanti, SOS Children's Village Programme Development staff, organised a one-day training session for 150 university students. The training event was organised in conjunction with the State University of Indonesia (Jakarta), the State University of Gajah Mada (Yogyakarta) and the Indonesian Islamic University (Yogyakarta). The training was initiated by Queen Hemas of Yogyakarta, who asked SOS Children to organise some training for university students who could act as voulnteers.
An eyewitness account from an SOS volunteer:
On Wednesday 3rd November, Brother Tonny Kartiwa and I were on duty at the SOS Social Centre in Yogyakarta, Glagaharjo Village, Cangkringan. That afternoon it was raining heavily in the Cangkringan area. Suddenly at about 3pm, there was a blackout, and the electricity was cut off. We left the Centre and headed towards the nearest road because a friend from TAGANA (Taruna Siaga Bencana/ Disaster Alert Youth) who was running towards us, was shouting at us, saying that the Mount Merapi volcano had just shot out a hot cloud of ash. We, and all the residents, looked at the Merapi mountaintop and were startled to see the large black cloud, which we call “Wedhus Gembel” , burst out of the mountaintop into the sky. For a moment, we just stood there in shock. Suddenly, we heard shouts from some other volunteers ordering us to get inside the shelters, but thankfully, right at that moment, some vehicles arrived which offered to move us to safer ground.
The situation was chaotic. Evacuees were fleeing for their safety. People were crying everywhere. Many called out the names of their loved ones. I, myself, was separated from Brother Tonny. I ran as fast as I could towards a sand truck and helped an old lady get on.The hot cloud continued to chase us with unimaginable speed. From the truck I could see panic and fear on people’s faces. I saw mothers' running and holding their children in their arms and old ladies running, but I couldn’t make the truck stop since it was already fully loaded with evacuees.
The truck brought us to Glagaharjo Village Hall, which was safe. Inside the Village Hall, I gathered some large sheets for the evacuees to sit on. After putting down two sheets, I suddenly heard hysterical cries from a teenager. I hurried to the door where I saw a teenage girl being carried in. The teenager was crying loudly and hysterically. I asked her to sit down and tried to calm her.
A few moments after that, a man came in carrying a weak old lady whose body was covered in grey ash. With my limited medical knowledge, all I could do was ask her to lie down and keep calm because she had difficulty breathing. After her family members arrived, I tried to find a medical team to help but I couldn’t find anyone, so I went back inside to be with her. Whilst doing so I saw a little child, who was the little sibling of the teenage girl. I hugged the girl and told her she was safe and that everything would be okay.
I finally I found a medical student from Gajah Mada University who gave first aid to the old lady. I looked for a vehicle which could bring the lady and the teenage girl to the nearest clinic or hospital. I saw a car owned by Tzu Chi Foundation which was parked in front of the Village Hall so I asked the owners to lend their vehicle to us, which they did. Thankfully, Brother Tonny and some other volunteers carried the old lady, the teenage girl and also the little girl inside the car and they were brought to Panti Nugroho Hospital.
It was an unforgettable experience and it was so precious because the event made me feel so close to the other evacuees.
Sri Subekti, a volunteer from SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia FSP Yogyakarta