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Indonesia orders flights to steer clear of Anak Krakatau volcano

Indonesia raises alert for volcano that triggered tsunami on Saturday that killed at least 430 people

JAKARTA: Indonesia yesterday raised the alert level for the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano to the second highest, and ordered all flights to steer clear, days after it triggered a tsunami that killed at least 430 people.

A crater collapse on the volcanic island at high tide on Saturday sent waves up to 5mhigh smashing into the coast on the Sunda Strait, between the islands of Java and Sumatra.

Authorities have warned that the crater of Anak Krakatau remains fragile, raising fears of another collapse and tsunami, and have urged residents to stay away from the coast.

The volcano has been rumbling on and off since June but has been particularly active since Sunday, spewing lava and rocks, and sending huge clouds of ash up to 3,000m into heavily overcast skies.

The national geological agency has raised the alert level to the second highest and set a 5km exclusion zone around the island.

A thin layer of volcanic ash has been settling on buildings, vehicles and vegetation along the west coast of Java since Wednesday, according to images shared by the national disaster mitigation agency.

Authorities said the ash was not dangerous, but advised residents to wear masks and goggles when outside, while aircraft were ordered away.

"All flights are rerouted due to Krakatau volcano ash on red alert," Indonesia's air traffic control agency AirNav said.

AirNav's corporate secretary, Mr Didiet K.S. Radityo, told Reuters there were no disruptions to any flights.

The civil aviation authority said no airports would be affected. The capital, Jakarta, is about 155 km east of the volcano.

Indonesia is a vast archipelago that sits on the PacificRing of Fire. In 1883, the volcano then known as Krakatoa erupted in one of the biggest blasts in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people with tsunamis and lowering the global surface temperature by 1 deg C with its ash.

Anak Krakatau, or child of Krakatau, is the island that emerged from the area in 1927 and has been growing since.

Tsunami warning systems were set up after 2004 but they have failed to prevent subsequent disasters, often because apparatus has not been maintained, while public education and disaster preparation efforts have been patchy at best.

Mr Ramdi Tualfredi, a teacher in the village of Cigondong, on Java's coast, said he had never got any safety instructions and efforts to prepare communities for tsunami had"totally failed".

"There were no preparations. I didn't get information from anywhere," he said, adding there had been little help for residents since disaster struck.

Nearly 22,000 people were displaced by the tsunami, while 1,495 were injured and 159 are missing. Thousands of displaced are staying in tents and crowded into public buildings.

Volunteers and displaced villagers told Reuters that conditions in the shelters were getting difficult, especially for new mothers and their babies.

The government has declared a state of emergency until Jan 4, to help with the distribution of aid. - REUTERS

Singapore Red Cross volunteers heading to tsunami-hit area

Singapore Red Cross (SRC) volunteers - Nanyang Polytechnic nursing student Aaron Lim Wei Xuan, 20, and Outward Bound Singapore assistant director (marine operations and logistics support) Muchsin Dahalan - are headed for Banten province.

The pair left Singapore on Wednesday evening and arrived in Jakarta on the same night.

Mr Muchsin, who has joined other overseas disaster relief efforts, including Tropical Storm Tembin in the Philippines in December last year, describes the Indonesian tsunami as his most challenging, with its larger area and higher death toll.

At least 430 people were killed in the disaster, with 1,495 injured and another 159 missing. Nearly 22,000 people have been evacuated and are in shelters.

Mr Muchsin, 46, is part of SRC's overseas disaster deployment team. Besides aiding the Indonesian Red Cross Society (Palang Merah Indonesia) with its humanitarian relief efforts, the pair will help with a needs assessment of the region.

Mr Muchsin told The New Paper: "The inaccessibility of some areas due to floods and intermittent phone signals are potential challenges. We have equipped ourselves with satellite phones (just) in case."

Mercy Relief has also sent its Indonesian representative, Mr Eka Prahadian Abdurahman, to help assess the situation and provide those affected with emergency relief distribution.

Ms Lia Roslan, Mercy Relief's corporate communications manager said: "The roads are damaged, so it could take hours to get to the disaster area, but our local partners have advised us on which routes to take."

HOW TO DONATE

SINGAPORE RED CROSS

Cheque: Payable to "Singapore Red Cross Society". Post it to Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane, Singapore 238486. Put your name, postal address and indicate Sunda Straits Tsunami 2018 at the back ; or go to redcross.give.asia/sundastraits2018

MERCY RELIEF

Cheque: Crossed cheque made out to "Mercy Relief Limited" with "Sunda Strait Tsunami Relief 2018" and e-mail address written on the back of the cheque.

Mail it to Block 160, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-1568, Singapore 310160.

Visit the Mercy Relief's website https://www.mercyrelief.org/ to find out more

WORLD