Mount Merapi(literally Mountain of Fire in Indonesian/Javanese), is an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. It has erupted repeatedly this fall. The most recent eruption saw almost 200 killed and more than 360,000 people flee their homes. The Decade Volcanoes refer to the 16 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas. Now why do people live near such devastating potential natural disasters?
A volcano may be designated a Decade Volcano if it exhibits more than one volcanic hazard (such as ash fall, lava flows, volcanic edifice instability and lava dome collapse), shows recent geological activity, is located in a populated are and is politically and physically accessible for study.
The following volcanoes were selected as the current Decade Volcanoes. Some are active while others. such as Mount Rainier) are dormant but near major cities:
Avachinsky-Koryaksky, Kamchatka, Russia
Colima, Jalisco and Colima, Mexico
Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
Galeras, Nariño, Colombia
Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA
Mount Merapi, Central Java, Indonesia
Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo
Mount Rainier, Washington, USA
Sakurajima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Santa Maria/Santiaguito, Guatemala
Santorini, Cyclades, Greece
Taal Volcano, Luzon, Philippines
Teide, Canary Islands, Spain
Ulawun, New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Mount Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Vesuvius, Naples, Italy
How people perceive their own risk will influence their motivations and actions before and during a volcanic event. It is not a simple case of providing more information to at risk communities but instead requires a complex and long term change in a cultural attitude towards the hazard.
In the case of Mount Merapi, it continues to hold significance for Javanese beliefs: it is one of four places where officials from the royal palaces of Yogyakarta and Solo make annual offerings to placate the ancient Javanese spirits.
To keep the volcano quiet and to appease the spirits of the mountain, the Javanese regularly bring offerings on the anniversary of the sultan of Yogyakarta's coronation.
Mount Merapi is perceived as a natural part of the world which makes it acceptable as a risk on some level. The same goes for the other Decade volcanoes.
In the current eruption deaths and injuries, there are images of people being rescued from the volcano. Most of those who were initially killed or are badly injured were most likely returning to their homes and villages during the evacuation to tend to abandoned livestock. These extremely poor communities rely on subsistence farming and their livestock are all they have. Returning during the day to their homes to collect grass for their cattle is considered entirely acceptable.
These people have to balance the risk between definitely losing their income if their livestock starve or possibly losing everything in an eruption. They had a choice of maybe dying due directly top Mount Merapi or dying because of loss of income leading to starvation.
People can change attitudes and lifestyles on where they live. But one must understand why they are doing what they are doing now.
For further information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decade_Volcanoes or http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/science_blog/101110.html