Klaten. Amid the panic caused by Mount Merapi’s marathon eruptions since Oct.26, a community of volunteers updated information about the disaster for 24 hours via Twitter.
While most villagers fled to escape the hot clouds and volcanic ash, the volunteers posted the latest status about the eruption online.
The Jaringan Informasi Lingkar Merapi (Merapi Circle Information Network), or Jalan Merapi, is a group of villagers that manage @jalinmerapi, a Twitter account that connects people in the timeline and provides data about Mount Merapi’s eruptions.
They collect factual data from a resident-owned observation station in Deles, Sidorejo village, in Kemalang sub-district, Klaten, Central Java, located 4 kilometers from the mountain’s peak.
Sukiman Mochtar Pratomo, 40, founder of Jalin Merapi, said they started tweeting on Oct. 25, a day before the first eruption.
“Within a very short time, we had more than 9,000 followers. We share links from various sources and re-tweet information from people related to the crisis of Mount Merapi,” he said.
On Twitter, Sukiman and his friends send messages covering crucial information about Mount Merapi’s eruptions.
These include the movement of hot clouds and volcanic ash, status of evacuations and refugees, aid, the number of injured and death toll updates, the activities of search and rescue teams, police and soldiers, appeals and policies of the government.
They also provide telephone numbers of temporary shelters, hospitals, police offices, bank accounts and aid stations.
When Sleman and Yogyakarta were covered in volcanic ash after Mount Merapi erupted again on Saturday morning, @jalinmerapi told the social community in Twitter’s time line that local residents needed masks but pharmacies had run out of stock.
Sukiman and his friends got public assistance immediately.
The account also released information about the Oct.26 eruption, telling where prevailing winds were pushing heat clouds and volcanic ash.
“We have a visual report from a resident-owned observation station in Deles hamlet, a kilometer away from Woro River, one of the rivers on the slopes of Mount Merapi.
“When most villagers fled after the mountain erupted, we used loudspeakers to alert them and immediately wrote the latest status on Twitter,” he said.
“We also countered news reports that were not true. For example, a TV station said on Saturday early morning that hot clouds reached Yogyakarta, making people run in panic.”
Sukiman said they are aware of the risks of their work. But he said the volunteers of Lintas Merapi community, founded in 2006, were trained in search and rescue protocol.
On Monday, the account gathered 450 volunteers to be deployed to various areas.
“We thank @jalinmerapi for working hard to share information about the state of Mount Merapi,” said Budi Sulistyo, a resident of Bantul district.
Tirta Kusuma from Yogyakarta city said information from @jalinmerapi was very helpful and much better than the local government’s reports.