Aviation News

November 10, 2010

Eruption of Mount Merapi Disrupts Flights as Death Toll Rises

The death toll in Indonesia’s Mount Merapi eruptions risen to 191 on Wednesday as international airlines again cancel and postpone routes to and from the region.

Disaster management officials confirmed the number of deaths since Merapi began making strong eruptions late last month. In addition, over 340,000 people are currently staying in temporary camps.

On Wednesday, Merapi’s latest eruption spewed out ash 2.5 kilometers into the air, sending thick hot ash clouds down its mountain slopes.

“Compared to the activity on November 3-6, the volcano’s eruption intensity is declining, but activity is still high,” said Surono, head of the Center of Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation.

“Merapi’s alert status is still at top level, and the danger zones are maintained at a radius of 20 kilometers,” Surono added, urging evacuees to remain at the temporary shelters and follow directions from local authorities.

In addition, several international airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Value Air, Qantas and Malaysia Air, have canceled flights due to air safety. However, several other companies such as Singapore Airlines continue with their regular operations.

Syaiful Bahri of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport confirmed the news.

Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto International Airport has remained closed as volcanic ash continues to affect the air quality at the airport, and officials say it would stay closed until Monday next week at the earliest. Yogyakarta is one of Indonesia’s most important touristic and cultural cities, and is located around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the volcano.

On Sunday, 50 flights were canceled, and on Saturday 36 flights had previously been canceled with Merapi’s powerful eruptions, despite being 430 kilometers (267 miles) east of Jakarta. By Monday, normal service had resumed, but airlines have remained cautious.

Norway announced a $1 million humanitarian assistance for emergency relief efforts for Indonesia’s recent twin disasters – Mount Merapi and the Mentawai Islands tsunami.

“In this hard time of challenges and suffering, the Norwegian government and people want to reach out to a good close friend and demonstrate our strong solidarity,” Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia Ambassador Eivind S. Homme said.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who visited Indonesia recently, said the funds will be channeled through the Norwegian Red Cross to its Indonesian sister organization.