Mount Merapi volcano is one of 35 active volcanoes in Indonesia just chilling, doing volcano things. It straddles the border between Central Java and Jogjakarta and is just one of 16 volcanoes on the planet being studied due to their large destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas (yay science!).
April 2006 ended a relatively calm period on the mountain giving way to earthquakes, eruptions and deadly pyroclastic flows. By early May, lava was constantly flowing from vents near the summit causing the mandatory evacuation of 17,000 locals from the towns perched high on the mountainside. Eruptions subsided by mid-May claiming the lives of many locals, many of which began the task of rebuilding against the advice of local government officials.
May 27 ended Merapi’s main eruptive cycle with a 6.2 magnitude earthquake centered to the southwest of Jogjakarta. The earthquake killed 5,700 people and injured 37,000 people. The death toll was highest in Bantul with 72% of the deaths occurring in this area. The 2006 eruptions and earthquakes destroyed and/or damaged 350,000+ structures in the surrounding areas. Notably, the Prambanan Temple was significantly damaged and temporarily closed until repairs could be made.
But wait… There’s more…
Late October 2010 forced locals to (again) deal with the unrest of Merapi. The Indonesian government raised the alert level, warning villagers that an eruption was imminent. October 25th began a series of eruptions that lasted into mid-November. Lava flows, scolding pyroclastic clouds and lahars were the prominent events with this series of events.
News reports stated that 194 people died from the eruptions; Three-quarters from searing heat blasts during the biggest eruptions. Volcanic ash was blamed for deaths from respiratory distress. The ash blanketed everything and everyone in the surrounding areas with thick layers of acidic, abrasive rock and glass.
Notably, the Borobudur Temple was significantly covered in ash and temporarily closed until it could be cleaned/repaired.
A 10km (6.2mi) exclusive zone was established during this series of eruptions and is now permanent. Inside the exclusion zone, you’ll find many abandoned houses, buildings and remnants of what life used to be. Locals are no longer allowed to live or work or play this danger area, the signs read “no community activities.”
Know before you go
- There are local guided tours of the exclusion zone by off-road jeep.
- Just above the towns, the terrain is extremely steep and requires advanced hiking to get up to the summit.
- The summit isn’t like a beach, there’s volcanic gasses, earthquakes and the possibility of eruptions.