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October 28, 2010. Yogyakarta (KATAKAMI / THE JAKARTA GLOBE) — The death toll from Mount Merapi’s eruption climbed to 30 on Wednesday, despite all the preparations and warnings.
“Twenty-seven of them died instantly when Merapi erupted, the other three in the emergency unit of Sardjito Hospital,” hospital spokesman Trisno Heru Nugroho said.
An official with the police identification unit, Rizal, said most of the victims suffered from severe burns.
Tutik, in her early 20s, came to Sardjito Hospital with her husband to claim the body of her grandmother, Mbah Pujo, who died in her home in Kinahrejo village.
“My grandmother died during the eruption and I just found out that her body was brought here,” she said.
Kinahrejo, the village closest to Merapi’s crater, was also home to the mountain’s spiritual gatekeeper, Mbah Maridjan, whose body was found in his home on Wednesday morning.
“It was catastrophic. Most of the houses were severely damaged and the whole village was covered by volcanic ash,” said Krista Martana, a volunteer from Disaster Alert Youth.
“The temperature was unbelievably hot. I got blisters on my feet even though I was wearing shoes with thick soles.”
Inside Mbah Maridjan’s house, 13 other bodies were also found.
The victims had been trying to convince him to leave just before the volcano erupted on Tuesday afternoon.
Among them were Yuniawan Nugroho, 42, also known as Wawan, the head of the political desk at news portal Vivanews, and Tutur Priyatno, 36, a volunteer of the Yogyakarta branch of the Indonesian Red Cross.
Officials identified them from identity cards in their pockets.
One of Wawan’s colleagues, Kinaransih, said she last saw him when he landed in Yogyakarta on Tuesday evening.
“He later sent me an SMS saying that he had met Mbah Maridjan and that he was waiting for Mbah Maridjan to finish praying. He was trying to persuade him to evacuate to the shelter,” she said.
Nezar Patria, also from Vivanews, said Wawan had been told that Mbah Maridjan would only be interviewed by him.
“He also covered the Merapi eruption in 2006, so he knew Mbah Maridjan,” Nezar said.
A relative of Mbah Maridjan, Agus Wiyarto, confirmed that Wawan had a close relationship with the spiritual figure.
Agus said he and Wawan had left Kinahrejo earlier on Tuesday after failing to persuade Mbah Maridjan to leave.
“However, Wawan was uneasy about the way we left him. He said he should have stayed to persuade him to flee,” he said.
So Wawan got Red Cross volunteer Tutur to drive him back to the village. “I could not prevent them from going,” Agus said.
“Wawan told me that after seeing Mbah Maridjan he would go back to his hometown of Ambarawa on Wednesday afternoon to see his wife and children.”
Wawan was buried in Ambarawa, Central Java, on Wednesday afternoon. He is survived by his wife, Endah Saptaningsih, and their two children.
Nezar said Wawan, who was based in Jakarta, was a dedicated journalist. “He had a good relationship with lawmakers,” he said, describing Wawan as a hard-working person who was “always committed to finishing his assignments.”
Gusti Prabukusumo, the brother of Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, said the sultan had expressed his condolences to the families of Mbah Maridjan and all those killed and injured in the disaster.
“The sultan called for the government to provide proper assistance for the families of the victims and hopes for the speedy recovery of the injured,” he said.
Sri Purnomo, the head of the Sleman district, said the government would bury the rest of the dead in mass graves at Umbulharjo village.