Jakarta. Despite being advised by volunteers not to do so, evacuees in Boyolali and Klaten, Central Java, left the evacuation shelters after Mount Merapi showed a decrease in activity.
About 600 evacuees left two shelters in Boyolali on Friday to return to their homes in the Selo and Cepogo subdistricts.
Volunteers at the shelters tried to persuade them to stay, but the evacuees were insistent. Those who wanted to leave were eventually made to sign a statement saying that they were leaving the shelters voluntarily.
“We will still monitor them and give them food aid because food is still scarce at the mountain slopes,” a volunteer told Metro TV.
Another shelter located in Tlogo village, Prambanan subdistrict, Klaten, was almost empty. Most of the 1,200 evacuees had returned to their homes, arguing that their cattle and fields were deserted. Officials at the shelter said that the evacuees could not be persuaded to stay so they had no choice but to let them leave.
In Bumiharjo village, farmers started working on their fields and feeding their cattle, convinced that Merapi would not erupt again.
Volcanic ash that has been emanating from Mount Merapi since its deadly eruption last week slowed on Friday, but experts warned that it remains dangerous.
However, the Volcano Investigation and Technology Development Institution (BPPTK) and Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG) have not yet lowered the volcano’s status from the current standby or danger levels.
Officials warned residents that less ash did not mean that the volcano was already safe.
“The activity of Merapi is still high, but the intensity of eruptions is reduced now. People should still be careful. Merapi is still on high alert,” said state volcanologist Surono.