Indonesian volcano refugees yearn for 'love chamber'
Residents have been sharing beds in unpartitioned tents and soccer stadiums for three weeks — and now they are asking for some privacy.
Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 05:34 AM
ROOM FOR LOVE SHACK?: A crowded refugee medical camp. Love chambers were set up in 2006 for refugees after the country's earthquakes. (Photo: Achmad Ibrahim/AP)
JAKARTA - Refugees from a deadly Indonesian volcano, crammed into makeshift shelters for weeks, have food and water but are now seeking a "love chamber" to fulfill another basic need.
Thousands of people fleeing the eruptions and ash clouds of the Mount Merapi volcano, which has killed over 250 people and forced nearly 400,000 to take refuge, have been sharing beds in unpartitioned tents and soccer stadiums for three weeks.
"A chamber of love would be nice," 18-year-old newlywed Ari Margareta told the Republika newspaper.
Mount Merapi in central Java has been erupting since late October, blanketing villages on its slopes in hot ash and disrupting international flights, and the government is maintaining a 10-20 kilometers (6-12 miles) exclusion zone.
The local government in the nearest city Yogyakarta is still mulling whether to build a "love chamber," a concept first seen when the area was hit by a deadly earthquake in 2006.
Authorities are also dealing with problems such as distributing food and clothing and dealing with health problems caused by dust. The airport for the city, a tourism center known for art and nearby ancient temples, will stay closed this week.
Insan Nurrohman, working with a local volunteer group to help refugees through psychological healing, said private space was also a basic need together with food and medical supplies, and could take the form of a tent or a wooden booth.
He said the experience of the aftermath of the 2006 quake had showed such booths to be safe and not cause social problems.
"There used to be a schedule for people to use it and for how long," Nurrohman told Reuters.
Some refugees were too shy to ask, he said.
However, the concept of a "love chamber" has not gone down well with some people in Indonesia, where a mostly moderate and youthful Muslim population is divided between embracing a more austere form of Islam or more liberal values.
"I think such a room is improper, it doesn't provide much privacy and if anybody happens to accidentally look into it or walk in, it would be very shameful," said Ganis, staying at a shelter in Yogyakarta.
(Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, Chandni Vatvani and Telly Nathalia; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)
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