MERAPI ERUPTIONS Water crisis threatens survivors

Tens of thousands of people living on the slopes of the erupting Mount Merapi are facing the prospect of a water crisis after the hot clouds ejected by the worlds most active volcano devastated water pipelines. Affected people are mostly in the four subdistricts of Kepuharjo, Um-bulharo, Wukirsari and Glagahharjo in Cangkringan district, Sleman regency, Yogyakarta. Thousands more are in Klaten regency. Central Java, including in Balerante, Panggang and Sidorejo subdistricts.

"Wedhus gembel [pyroclastic clouds of ash] completely destroyed pipelines. We will surely face a water crisis once we are allowed fo go home from evacuation centers," head of Kepuharjo subdistrict. Heri Suprapto, said on Sunday. Wedhus Gembel [a Java term alluding to being like shaggy sheep] refers to the hot clouds that killed 38 people since Tuesday.

People in the affected area now rely on a spring located at the source of the Kaligendol River. With the eruption, Heri could not tell whether the water source had been damaged. "None of us have the guts to check on it," Heri said. He was concerned about a de-crease in water supply, if the spring was intact, because part of the catchment area was destroyed.

Head of Sleman regency Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Agency, Riyadi Martoyo, said his agency planned to reforest the area to help restore long-term water supplies. "We will focus the reforestation program on the peoples forest," he said, adding that some 200 hectares in the region had been devastated by the eruptions.

Other burned forests, according to Riyadi, belong to the Mount Merapi National Park, so to reforest them would require cooperation involving the parties concerned. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hassan said over the weekend that this years Merapi eruption had destroyed a total of 6,410 hectares of forests belonging to both local people and the national park.

"We need some Rp 10 to Rp 15 million per hectare to reforest the damaged forests," said Zulkifli on the sidelines of his visit to Merapi over the weekend. As of Sunday afternoon. Merapi was rated as still being dangerous. At 2.44 p.m. it ejected hot clouds that traveled some kilometers down its slopes, heading to the south and west

The latest bout of eruptionsprompted panic and some chaos among thousands of villagers who had taken advantage of a lull in activity to rush home. To prevent further unnecessary loss df life, the National Search and Rescue Team Agency kept sweeping the no-go regions and forcing people to go down to safer places outside the radius of 10 kilometers from the top of the volcano.

"We have to do it because many have been forcing themselves to go home to take care of their livestock during the daytime despite the danger," the agencys coordinator fbr Merapi handling, Waluyo Rahardjo, said. The main coordination post for Merapi says that some 18,000 refugees are still staying in shelters. Limited spaces have forced the authorities to place some of the refugees including those in Wukirsari in the homes of residents.

Some evacuees have started to experience health problems mostly due to the remaining thick volcanic ash ejected during the eruption. At least 200 of them have been complaining of respiratory problems, more than 200 have eye irritation and another 200 reported other problems including high blood pressure and headaches, according to health officials.

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