Djemi Amnifu, Kupang – More than 5,500 people have reportedly fled to evacuation shelters in Lewoleba city in Lembata regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), after Mount Ili Lewotolok experienced a series of eruptions over the weekend.
The evacuees are now accommodated in 13 locations, including local officials' offices, halls and traditional markets in nearby villages and districts.
The Lembata Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) previously reported about 2,700 residents had relocated to shelters immediately after Ili Lewotolok spewed a column of volcanic ash and smoke 4,000 meters into the air on Sunday morning. The number of evacuees has since been growing.
"The Lembata administration needs a lot of assistance, especially supplies of clean water, food and medicine for the residents in the evacuation shelters," Lembata Regent Eliaser Yentji Sunur said on Tuesday.
He said all outsourced nurses that had been sent home would be called back to help assist the evacuees. Any party was welcomed to assist the displaced residents by providing material and moral support, as well as health services, he added.
On Tuesday, Eliaser received a working visit from NTT Police chief Insp. Gen. Lotharia Latif, commander of the 161/Wirasakti Regional Military Command Brig. Gen. Samuel Petrus Hehakaya and NTT Intelligence Agency head Brig. Gen. Adrianus Surio Agung Nugroho.
Eliaser expressed his gratitude for the help of the Indonesian security personnel so far. However, he also said he still needed the Kupang Naval Main Base (Danlatamal) to help prepare water transportation to facilitate the ongoing evacuation.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Doni Monardo has arrived in Lembata to directly monitor the emergency response efforts.
Lembata secretary Paskalis Tapobali said Mt. Ili Lewotolok began showing signs of volcanic activity last Thursday, when seismometers recorded earthquake tremors, before it erupted on Friday afternoon.
The seismic activity slightly decreased after the first eruption, but it increased by six times on Sunday morning, before the alert status was increased to siaga (watch) – level three of the country's four-tiered alert system, from waspada (advisory), or level two in the afternoon, he added.
"The tremors continued for about 15 minutes before the eruption occurred," Paskalis said, adding that an eruption also occurred on Monday evening.
Mt. Ili Lewotolok is a stratovolcano located in the north-central part of the island of Lembata. The volcano has been erupting since 1660, with its volcanic activity recorded throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
This volcano also caused tectonic earthquakes in January 2012. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) had raised the volcano's status to level 2 in October 2017.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin, making it one of the world's most seismically active regions prone to tectonic and volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.
Last year, the country recorded 9,384 natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, land liquefaction and landslides, which left 684 people dead. This year, as of Sept. 3, the BNPB has recorded 1,944 disasters that killed 272 people. (syk)