Rebuilding lives at Mount Merapi - Australia Network's Newsline

Uploaded by australianetworknews on 03.12.2010

For the past week convoys carrying officials and soldiers have been driving into the eerie
landscape around Mount Merapi …
They move into the worst hit areas, load themselves up with rubber tyres and fuel, and move out,
to find and burn any animal remains.
SUWANDI AZIS, AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT (translation): Yesterday we found a lot of carcasses in the
west side because of the heat cloud, but in this part of area, most of the animals has
been buried by material from Merapi.
More than two and a half thousand head of cattle are believed to have perished.
This place is only four kilometres from the volcano. Its fertile soil used to support
three villages.
Now it's a restricted area where only former residents are allowed back in to see what's
SUWANDI AZIS: It is not an easy job to do this, people will physically recovered easily,
but their hearts must be broken, it's so hard for them to see their village becomes like
One of the heartbroken in Mujirah, who's taken her four remaining precious stock to a government
run shelter.
MUJIRAH, CATTLE FARMER (translation): They were confused and injured badly, if they were
humans, they would have screamed for medicine, they were bleeding and covered by ashes.
Mujirah nearly lost her life and blames a warning that came too late.
Her four animals are the best chance she has to start again. But she has no idea of what
to do next.
Her village was destroyed, and she says it's too dangerous to live there again.
MUJIRAH: I feel confused, where I should stay after this, I'm staying at someone else's
house now, but what about my future, I don't know if the government has any plan for me.
The Mayor of the district hardest hit by the volcano says farmers will be given the seeds
and livestock they lost to help them recover.
But it will take time for agricultural production to pick up.
And it's not just the most obvious losses.
Ten kilometres from the mountain and a major crop has been damaged by volcanic ash.
HARYONO, FRUITGROWER: This is because the ash rain, it was so thick that the branches
couldn't stand it anymore and fell. Farmers need to cut some of the branches, otherwise,
the harvest will fail.
Snakefruit is the major food commodity in this district, and officials say that it could
take two years for production to return to full.
SRI PURNOMO, MAYOR OF SLEMAN DISTRICT: If we talk about financial loss, it's 3.5 trillion
rupiah in total, both civilians and the government and that exclude the last 2 month when the
local economy stopped moving.
The upheaval and its cost is still evident in a stadium on the outskirts of Yogjakarta.
Many refugees are waiting to find out when and if they can return to their villages close
to the mountain.
At the height of the crisis this stadium was full of people who'd been forced to flee their
homes. There are still 68 thousand refugees living in places like this, this one being
the biggest.
But two and half thousand families simply don't have a home to go.
So in the meantime they'll be given a temporary one.
LIke the ones being made at this special construction site.
SRI PURNOMO: We made the house in order to move the family from the refugee camp where
they have to cope with so many other families to this temporary shelter where they can get
their own privacy and that they can start building their life back.
Many people died when going back to tend to their animals. Many thought they were safe.
The Mayor wants to change the way people think about the volatile mountain.
To not rely on myths about safety, but to listen to the science.
And move out of the way.
HELEN BROWN: Four kilometres from the heart of the volcano and soldiers are being sent
in to burn animal carcasses.
But in some places the lava and mud has covered everything.
SUWANDI AZIS, AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT (translation): They are going back because they found nothing
up there; we're now going further down.
It's estimated around two and half thousand head of cattle died.
This cattle breeder managed to save herself, and four of her precious stock.
And will use them to rebuild her life, although she doesn't know yet where she'll live.
MUJIRAH, CATTLE FARMER (translation): I don’t think I would brave enough to get back to
my original place… no tree, and no house left.
Up to 70 thousand people are still living in refugee centres.
Near Yogjakarta temporary homes are being built for two and half thousand families.
These simple homes cost about 700 US dollars to build, and will provide much needed respite
for families for about a year, while they decide what to do next.
The mayor of the hardest hit district says some areas may be deemed too unsafe to live
in again.
SRI PURNOMO, MAYOR OF SLEMAN DISTRICT: We will educate the children and equip the teachers
so that they know what the real Merapi is instead of having faith on myth.
The latest eruptions showed just how volatile and unsafe the much-loved mountain can be.
Helen Brown, ABC news, Yogyakarta.