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Indonesia: “I was afraid that rocks and fire would fall on me.”

By Dwi Handono, Save the Children, Indonesia

“I was afraid that rocks and fire would fall on me”, says Juniar, an 11-year old girl from the tiny village of Gogorejo in Indonesia.

Juniar (left) with one her classmates after cleaning the school
Juniar (left) with one her classmates after cleaning the school

Despite living within 10km of Mount Kelud, Juniar did not know that her home was in a disaster-prone area. When the volcano erupted on the night of 13 February, her father woke her and her little brother up.

A village on the move

Her neighbours too were on the move.“When I went outside, there were lots of people,” Juniar said. But she did not understand what was happening around her. When flames began emerging from the top of Mount Kelud, she finally realised that the volcano was about to unleash fury.

“When I saw the flames, my father rushed to get me into the truck,” she said. It was pitch black, but incredibly noisy from the sounds of blasts, falling rocks, people in panic and the trucks’ roaring engines. The eruption led to the deaths of at least 4 people and over 100,000 people had to be evacuated to 172 evacuation centres.

Sand and fear

“We sought refuge at the Pandantoyo village centre,” Juniar tells me. “When we got there, there was a lot of sand everywhere. I still could not sleep because I was afraid that the rocks would reach me here.” Ash from the volcanic eruption spread 800km to the west of Java, causing schools and businesses to close, including seven airports.

When morning came, her family left the evacuation camp and headed to her grandmother’s house, which was farther from the volcano. There, Juniar and her little brother would be safe from any subsequent eruption.

“I was not feeling well that morning; I probably caught a cold overnight,” says Juniar. “My brother and I stayed with my grandmother while my parents went home to clean up the house.”

Students on clean-up duty

The day after, Juniar’s parents brought them home. “My house is not damaged,” she said. “But there was a lot of sand everywhere along the way.

“When I went to school on Monday, I was shocked to see that it was covered in sand. How am I going to study? But we all helped out to clean up the school. I wore a face mask because there was so much dust.”

To support children returning to schools, Save the Children distributed over 20,000 masks to help them cope with the poor air quality from the eruption. Educational posters were also distributed to help children understand what volcanoes are and why they erupt. We are also planning to expand our programmes in the area to help affected families recover from the disaster.


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