Coconuts Bali Jan. 10, 2018
The reduction of the exclusion zone around Bali’s rumbling Mount Agung volcano last week sent thousands of evacuated local residents home, but now back to their villages, many are at a loss of what to do for work.
Ever since Mount Agung was bumped up the highest alert level on Nov. 27, 2017 (and for a stretch from Sept. 22 to Oct. 29), a danger zone had been set at a radius of eight to 10 kilometers from the volcano’s crater. Recent declining volcanic activity, however, resulted in the country’s volcanology center narrowing the exclusion zone down to a radius of six kilometers (but not the alert level) on Jan. 4.
But since many of the evacuees were farmers, tending to crops and livestock before Agung pushed them off their land, many are confused what to do as ash has coated crops and livestock have died uncared for or wandered away.
An estimated 70,610 Balinese villagers had been evacuated, spread out at different evacuation centers across Bali, before the exclusion zone was reduced. Now with the reduction, around 17,115 from seven villages in the six kilometer zone will have to remain evacuated, estimates the country’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
It seems to understandably be mixed emotions for evacuees coming back home; excitement to return home after months away, but a combination of fear for safety because the volcano is still at the highest alert level and has not gone back to sleep yet, and an immediate sense of confusion, on how to pull together resources to survive.
The people are in desperate need of government assistance says Gede Pawana, chairman of Pasebaya, a community made up of leaders from 28 local villages focusing on Mount Agung mitigation activities.
“Residents are still confused. Well, now let’s think of a solution. After they have been told to go home, what should they do now?”, Pawana asked.
According to Pawana, there are a number of regional organizations who can budget funds for this and play an active role in helping out evacuees who have come back home, especially in assisting the livestock sector, since the majority of the villagers are farmers.
Additionally, Pawana says relevant agencies should keep evacuation routes open—because it’s very well possible that the villagers will have to evacuate all over again if Mount Agung experiences a larger eruption.
“We are only anticipating it. If the worst possibility happens, residents will be ready to evacuate to a safe place,” Pawana said, as quoted by Bali Post.