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Wahonos appeal for help in Indonesia

Thousands homeless in quake-ravaged area



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"Tourism in general in that area will be very hard hit," said Wahono. "And the eruption of Mt. Merapi… is giving everyone jitters around that area.

"… I don’t think it is going to recover soon because of this situation and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It is nature."

Earlier this week the volcano was spitting out lava and hot clouds of gas, sending debris avalanching about 4 kilometres down the mountain. Since Saturday’s quake the volcano has spewed hot clouds out about 150 times a day – that’s three times the activity than before the quake.

Mount Merapi, which means Fire Mountain, has erupted scores of times in the last 200 years often with deadly results. The 3,000-metre volcano has now been rumbling for weeks and early in May locals were ordered to evacuate.

Wahono is also appealing to national and international spa organizations to get involved in raising funds to help the victims.

The Indonesian government is estimating that about 23,000 homes were severely affected with another 14,000 partially affected.

To date Canada has pledged $2 million for relief efforts, of which $500,000 will go to the International Red Cross.

Some 22 countries have contributed or pledged assistance so far, according to the UN Office of the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.

A history of devastation

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes because it sits along the Pacific’s so-called Ring of Fire of active volcanoes and faults. It has 76 volcanoes, the largest number of any country.

In 2004 a 9.1 earthquake struck near the Island of Sumatra producing a tsunami that left more than 230,000 people dead or missing in countries around the Indian Ocean, most of them in Indonesia. An 8.6 quake last March in the same region left 1,300 people dead.

At the time of the tsunami the Resort Municipality of Whistler pledged to help Indonesia’s Nias Island, which was devastated by the Dec. 26 event. It was estimated that it would need $468 million in reconstruction and Whistler was planning to help.

That help was to be delivered through a program developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian International Development Agency.

However, said RMOW spokeswoman Diana Waltmann, the FCM program has not worked out and the municipality is still looking for a way forward on the issue.

"There is a desire to fulfill our commitment and to assist and in Whistler 2020 there is a desire to help emerging resort communities in developing countries, so I think it is there I just don’t think we have got our minds around how to go forward with it and when," she said.