The 2010 eruptions of Mount Merapi began in late October 2010 when Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta and Central Java (Indonesia) began an increasingly violent series of eruptions that continued into November. Seismic activity around the volcano increased from mid-September onwards, culminating in repeated outbursts lava and ashes. Large eruption columns formed, causing numerous pyroclastic flows down the heavily populated slopes of the volcano. Merapi’s eruption was said by authorities to be the largest since the 1870s.
Over 350,000 people were evacuated from the affected area. However, many remained behind or returned to their homes while the eruptions were continuing. 353 people were killed during the eruptions, many as a result of pyroclastic flows. The ash plumes from the volcano also caused major disruption to aviation across Java.
The mountain continued to erupt until 30 November 2010. On 3 December 2010 the official alert status was reduced to level 3, from level 4, as the eruptive activity had subsided.
Chronology of eruptive events
Monday, 25 October
Merapi erupted three times on Monday afternoon spewing lava down its southern and south-eastern slopes. Three major eruptions were recorded at 14:04, 14:24 and 15:15 local time.
Tuesday, 26 October
The eruptions on Tuesday started at 17:02. By 18:54 pyroclastic activity had begun to subside following 12 eruption-associated events being recorded by CVGHM (the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation) monitors. The first fatalities occurred on this day.
Friday, 29 October
On Friday eruptive activity included lava ejection with hot ash clouds reported to be flowing 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) down the slopes of the mountain and lasting four to nine minutes. Ash falls reached as far as the Central Java town of Magelang.
Saturday, 30 October
By early on the morning of Saturday 30 October the volcano was erupting again. The eruptions were louder and stronger than those of 26 October. Ash from the eruptions on 30 October fell more than 30 kilometres away and now included ash falls upon the city of Yogyakarta. A pyroclastic river flowed from Merapi again on 30 October 2010 at 00:35. A pyroclastic flow headed toward Gendol River, Kuning River, Krasak River, and Boyong River. This was then followed by an explosion from Merapi resulting in a two kilometer vertical high fire ball rising from the top of the mountain . This eruption caused raining sand to fall on areas to a radius of up to 10 kilometres from the volcano.
Monday, 1 November
From the previous eruption, Crisis Center MOH reported 42 people died, 103 people have been admitted to several health facilities with respiratory difficulties and burn injuries. reported the number of displaced persons numbered up to 70,143.
Tuesday, 2 November
On 2 November several airlines including Garuda, AirAsia and Silkair with international flights to both Yogyakarta and Solo were either suspended or re-routed due to the eruptive activity.
Wednesday, 3 November
On 3 November heat clouds travelled up to 10 kilometres away from the eruption, forcing the government to evacuate people from within the refugee camps set up earlier to accommodate those already dislocated by the volcano. This was the first time that the eruption has continued for more than an hour, so it was decided to move the shelters to 15 kilometres away from the summit.
Thursday, 4 November
Heavy rain during the night of 3–4 November triggered lahars with mixtures of water and rock debris cascading down the Kuning, Gendol, Woro, Boyong, Krasak and Opak rivers on the slopes of the volcano. A bridge was destroyed and riverbanks damaged. The eruption at 05:55 was reported as being five times stronger that the initial eruption on 26 October 2010.
Friday, 5 November
Merapi erupted strongly early Friday morning. Volcanic ash fell at Cangkringan district and its surroundings 10 kilometres from the crater. Due to continuous large eruptions, the BNPB (Indonesian Disaster Management Office) extended the safety zone to a radius of 20 kilometres and Yogyakarta’s airport was closed again for 3 hours in the morning. Residents who were within 15 kilometres of the summit were asked to leave and seek a safer place. Volcanologists reported the eruptions on Friday 5 November to be the biggest since the 1870s and officials announced by loudspeaker that the mountain’s danger zone had been expanded to 20 kilometres from the crater.
Sunday, 7 November
At least 135 people had died on its slopes over the previous two weeks, and authorities were still struggling on Sunday to help those injured from Friday’s massive eruption. Police stationed on the slopes complained that they were having considerable difficulties stopping people entering the exclusion zone and putting their lives at risk on the mountains slopes.
Tuesday, 9 November
The eruption that began on Friday continued for another day with less intensity as more bodies were retrieved from villages destroyed by pyroclastic flows.
On 9 November BNPB announced that they considered the eruptive activities of 2010 to have exceeded the activities of the mountains eruption in 1872. Based on historical records, the eruption of Merapi in 1872 was recorded for 120 hours, while the eruption of 2010 had already presented five days of relentless activity since Thursday 4 November and up until the 8 November had erupted for more than 120 hours or more without pause.
On 9 November a 5.6 magnitude earthquake was felt in Yogyakarta. The quake’s epicenter was at sea and had no tsunami potential. This type of tectonic earthquake was not sourced from the volcanic activity of Mount Merapi.
In late November Mount Merapi still remained on alert due to threats in the form of hot clouds and lava. The mountain was still erupting on 30 November 2010 and the official alert status remained at level 4.
On Friday 3 December 2010 the head of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), accompanied by the head of the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation made a joint press release that as of 3 December, 2010, at 09.00 am, the authorities lowered the status of Mount Merapi to the level of Caution Alert (Level III).
On 26 October at least 18 people, including a two-month-old baby, were found dead due to burns and respiratory failure caused by hot ashes from the eruption. Thousands were evacuated within a radius of 10 kilometres around the slopes of the volcano. Wednesday 27 October the death toll had risen to at least 25. The death toll included an elder, Mbah Maridjan (grandfather Marijan), known as the volcano’s spiritual gatekeeper, who was found dead at his home approximately 4 kilometres from the peak.
The Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency stated at 10:00 on morning of 1 November that 38 people had been killed and 69,533 evacuated since Merapi began erupting on 26 October. The number of people killed by the ongoing eruptions had risen to 275 by 18 November. The National Disaster Management Agency announced the death toll had climbed after more than a dozen victims succumbed to their injuries, the majority of those being from severe burns. Most of the 275 people were reported as being killed by searing gas clouds and from respiratory complications, burns and other illnesses related to the eruptions. Some victims died in road and other accidents during the panicked exodus from the mountain. By 22nd November, the death toll had risen to 304 and by 24 November the toll had risen to 324. Syamsul Maarif, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) explained that the death toll had risen after a number of victims succumbed to severe burns and more bodies were found on the volcano’s slopes. By 3 December the toll had risen to 353.
Refugee camps that were previously located within a radius of were re-located to secure locations placing an added burden upon logistics and the delivery of basic needs to the people displaced by the evacuations. Acute respiratory infection, hypertension, and headache were affecting Mount Merapi eruption survivors.
On Tuesday, 9 November, Indonesian Red Cross chairman Jusuf Kalla encouraged the development of a disaster preparedness curriculum to assist in dealing with natural disasters “Harus ada kurikulum kebencanaan” through an ongoing training and education.
320,000 people were reported to have been evacuated to emergency shelters by 9 November following the widening of the evacuation zone the previous week. Many children remained separated from their parents due to the chaos surrounding the mass exodus of refugees fleeing from the mountain slopes and the refugees were living in cramped temporary shelters after being ordered to evacuate from a 20-kilometre “danger zone” around Mount Merapi.
After the end of the emergency response period, the National Disaster Management Agency BNPB planned to begin implementing the reconstruction and rehabilitation programs for Mt Merapi victims. By mid November the eruptions had damaged 867 hectares of forest land on the volcano`s slopes in Sleman District, Yogyakarta, with material losses estimated at Rp33 billion. The damaged areas included the Merapi National Park, community forests and the farms and plantations of the local people. Magelang’s district administration decided to extend the emergency period, scheduled to end on 24 November, for a further period of 2 weeks until 9 December as Merapi’s alert status still remained at the highest level in late November 2010.
Yogyakarta’s Disaster Management Agency reported in late November that there were about 500 reported cases of eruption survivors in Sleman district suffering from minor to severe psychological problems, and about 300 cases in Magelang.