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Indonesia to resettle over 4,000 Mt Sinabung evacuees

The Indonesian government is planning to resettle more than 4,000 people to areas where they are safe from the looming threat of Mount Sinabung's eruptions.

NORTH SUMATRA: The Indonesian government is planning to resettle more than 4,000 people to areas where they are safe from the looming threat of Mount Sinabung's eruptions.

Once a lush green area, Sukameriah village is now completely covered in thick ash.

Fourteen bodies were discovered in the small village on the foothills of Mount Sinabung after searing hot ash clouds cascaded down the village and its surroundings.

Ajijah, an evacuee at a shelter, once lived in Sukameriah village but is now homeless.

She said: "After the 2010 eruptions, we were able to return home. But this time, our houses were completely damaged. We no longer can live in our village."

As Ajijah’s home is located in an area now considered a hazardous zone, she and her family are eligible to be relocated to a safe area.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has allocated over US$5.5 million to build a new settlement for more than 1,000 families living within the three kilometre radius of Mount Sinabung.

The new settlement will be located seven kilometres from their old neighbourhood.

The government's relocation plans offer evacuees who cannot return to their homes an opportunity to rebuild their lives in a safer area.

But some evacuees, most of whom are farmers, are having doubts because they are concerned they will not have a job once they are resettled.

Dody Riswandi, deputy chief of emergency response preparedness at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said: "According to our experience, not all of them want to move because it's not easy to move people… because you're not just moving their house but you move their livelihood. It's not easy and we understand that because we experienced so many times in the last disaster."

The agency is discussing several options to provide an alternative livelihood for the resettled evacuees.

Fifteen out of 25 hectares of land have been acquired for their use, and there are plans to acquire the rest by the end of the month.

Each family will get 100 to 150 square metres of land and US$2,500 to build their homes.

Mr Riswandi said: "We started building housing by using community-based development. Like in Yogyakarta, what we've done there is we involved the community to build their own house. We provide the facilitator, and the mechanism is organised by the Ministry of Public Works."

Reconstruction of the new settlement is targeted for completion by next June.

In the meantime, evacuees like Ajijah must bear a few more months living in shelters.

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