Boyolali, Central Java. The Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development Agency, or BPPTKG, issued a warning for tourists to avoid the peak of Mount Merapi as they celebrate New Year’s Eve. The agency has imposed a one-kilometer exclusion radius around the crater following an eruption last month.
“Merapi is open for hiking, but we recommend tourists not go further than Pasar Bubrah [2,500 meters up]. Heading to the peak at this moment is too risky,” BPPTKG head Subandriyo said on Saturday.
Despite the current normal status of Merapi, a potential for another eruption or mudslide from the peak could occur at any moment. There are still an estimated 70 million cubic meters of volcanic ash deposited around the crater’s rim from Merapi’s 2010 eruption, which could wash down in a mudslide during heavy rain.
The BPPTKG says the amount of rainfall needed to trigger this is 100 millimeters an hour. Based on BPPTKG records at monitoring posts around the mountain, the current peak rain level is less than 65 mm per hour.
However, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted heavy rain in the area at the end of December influenced by Tropical Cyclone Bruce, over the Indian Ocean.
Suyitno, from the Boyolali district Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), said the New Selo path to Merapi’s summit remained open, although hikers were expected to follow the BPPTKG’s recommendation. Even so, search and rescue professionals will be on 24-hour standby.
Merapi remains a favorite hiking destination in spite of its potential danger. Several homestays in Selo are fully booked by foreign and domestic tourists who want to spend the year-end holidays there.
“[It is] all booked through Christmas and New Year,” said Budiarto, a homestay owner in Selo, near Merapi.
“They are tourists who want to hike on Merapi and Merbabu.” The Jakarta Globe