Medan, Indonesia, Feb 4, 2014 / 12:09 pm
Following a Feb. 1 volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island Sumatra, the local Church has been providing shelter and assistance to those affected by the tragedy.
Mount Sinabung's sudden eruption on Saturday morning spewed smoke, ash and rocks 1.5 miles into the air and engulfed several nearby villages in ash.
At least 16 people have been killed by the eruption, which occurred 55 miles south of Medan.
"We hope the eruptions stop quickly and people can return to their home and work as usual," Fr. Andika Tarigs, who is coordinating the Archdiocese of Medan's refugee relief operation, told CNA Feb. 3.
Fr. Tarigs reported that some 29,000 local residents had to abandon land, property, and livestock, and "flee their villages for safety."
The Medan archdiocese has opened the doors of its parishes to give temporary shelter to displaced persons, regardless of their religion.
A large number of the evacuees, nearly 1,100, have taken refuge in St. Peter and Paul parish, located roughly three miles from Mount Sinabung.
"It's sad … to see the plight of the affected people," Fr. Sebastianus Eka Bhakti Sutapa, rector of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Medan, told CNA Feb. 3.
Medan will be safe, he said, and that the cathedral parish is assisting the diocese and other parishes in providing support to the displaced.
Fr. Sutapa said farmers are the worst affected by the volcano, as they have lost both their crops and livestock. He cited an imminent need of monetary support for the affected persons, so that farmers can begin their lives again, and children can continue their education.
Mount Sinabung had been dormant for 400 years until 2010, and it has erupted periodically since then.
Local authorities have warned residents the eruptions might continue, and to remain away until further notice.