Saturday, May 11, 2013

The wrath of Merapi - Mount Merapi, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The 2010 eruption taken from  the hanging pictures in the stall at Kaliadem

Since 1548, Mount Merapi has erupted 68 times and the recent eruptions on 26 October, 2010 claimed 324 lives. In Javanese “Merapi” means “Mountain of Fire” and true enough it is the most active and unpredictable volcano in Indonesia. On April 5th, 2013, about two years and five months after the eruption, we had the opportunity to visit the villages around the slope of Merapi. Our family in Sleman, Yogyakarta drove us to Kaliurang and finally to Kaliadem village, about 25 km north of Yogyakarta. Kaliadem is as far as we could used our own transportation. The rest of the journey has got to be done with the willy jeep which costs us 350,000 Rupiah and we rented a motorbike for 150,000 Rupiah. 

The houses were abandoned and never rebuilt

Merapi eruption has brought new income to the villagers, eco-tourism is flourishing after 26th October, 2010. As we rode on the willy jeep, the driver, a young lad retold the traumatic story of the 2010 eruptions. The ride was really very bumpy that it disturbed our concentration on his story. We passed through a few villages on the slope of Merapi and Kaliadem is just 5 km from the peak of Merapi and Kinahrejo is only 4 km away. Although, the catastrophe hit the area more than 2 years ago, the process of rebuilding has been very slow. 

The ruins

We drove further to see the ecological impact of the eruptions.  The area around Merapi has not recovered and few hamlets had been destroyed by the pyroclastic flow  lava. Today, Gendol river  is dried and the hamlet, Brogangsuruh located 15 meter from the river had disappeared.  The 3 meter high reinforced concrete embankment built by the villagers could not stop the hot lava flowing at the speed of 300 km per hour and the temperature at 600 degrees centigrade  from over flowing and engulfing the hamlet. After the disappearance of River Gendol and River Krasak, the area is faced with serious water problem.

By 5th. November, 2010 it was reported that Merapi had released 50 million cubic meters of volcanic materials. 2o km around Merapi was declared a danger zone covering areas in Klaten, Magelang and Sleman. On the slopes of Merapi, we saw the recent economic activities of many sand miners. Digging and transporting the lava sand is a big business in the area. The area is almost flooded with lorries and diggers working.  I'm not sure how safe is this activity as we could still see smokes emerging from the soil and I can feel the irritation on my skin after visiting the area. For a moment, the wrath of Merapi has subsided but it will return and may bring greater devastation.
The forest has gone and Gendol River filled with sand
The river vanished
Huge lava rocks lying around
Most part of Merapi slopes are still bare
The route we went through
Trying to build their lives from donation
Smoke appearing from the lava sand 
The 10 meters gorge once cut through the forest is now filled with lava sand
The areas are covered with smoke though 2 years have passed
Fine lava sand forming the path
The process of transporting the lava sand
Lorry filled with the lava sand
Sand miners activities
The path of the lava flow from Merapi
New source of income for the workers
Piles of sand and rocks - future prosperity for  the people
Workers at work with no concern on the impact of their health 
Busy at work
A villager goes on with her daily activities
Life goes on...


  1. A very interesting first hand report. It must be a really difficult area for the people who live there.

  2. Yes Andrew, you're right, living in Merapi area is not easy but these people are determined to rebuild their lives with or without the government support. I admire their courage but the threat of another eruption is ahead of them.