Standing in the shadow of the active volcano of Mount Sinabung are seven ghost towns in Indonesia, devoid of any human life.
Although the Indonesian government has marked these areas too dangerous for habitation, as the volcano continues to spew molten lava and ash, one daredevil photographer wanted to explore the untold stories of the people that once lived in the ramshackle ruins of the homes there.
Keow Wee Loong told UNILAD that, although the media have reported on the continuous eruptions of Mount Sinabung, not many had explored the story of the towns that now lie abandoned in its shadow.
Loong has visited the area, which used to be home to 10,000 people before the first eruption devastated the area in 2014, saying ‘It used to be a very busy, lively town’.
The young, intrepid photographer continued:
But now I am back again and everything has changed. It is just an empty, dead town with. A lot of personal belongings remain inside the residents homes.
Loong visited the towns of Gurukinayan, Sukanalu, Sigaranggang, Laukawar Suka Mariah, Semacem village and Bekerah.
They were once a fertile hub of agriculture on the Indonesian paradise island of Sumatra. But in 2010, disaster struck when the Sinabung volcano that had been dormant for 400 years erupted. For the next four years, the volcano spewed ash and debris.
However, in 2014, a fierce eruption caused fatalities. After an evacuation was ordered, authorities allowed residents to re-enter the red zone once it was deemed safe. But just days later Mount Sinabung erupted once more, killing at least seven islanders.
As recently as last month, two volunteers died rescuing victims from the volcano’s wrath. The Red Cross has deployed emergency teams and relief aid in the wake of the eruption.
According to Keow, Mount Sinabung – which is still active to this day – erupted seven times when he was in its vicinity over the course of 48 hours. It is one of 129 volcanoes sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.
He slept rough, along with his wife Marta, in one of the abandoned homes for two nights in his endeavours to bring you these photographs.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said:
We cannot predict when the eruptions are going to stop. The volcanic parameters and seismic activities are still high, which means that eruptions could potentially happen.
This young photographer offers a poignant insight into the tragic effects of this natural disaster.