Striking images reveal how sulphur miners in Indonesia risk their lives to brave toxic fumes from an active volcano for just £3 a day

Striking images have revealed the brutal daily reality faced by workers at one of the most unpleasant jobs in the world.

Men working in Ijen – a volcanic range stretching across East Java, Indonesia – have a short life expectancy due to the punishing conditions they face every day in the depths of the mines.

The intrepid workers clamber over sharp rock faces, braving sheer drops from the side of the 2,800-metre-high (around 9,200 feet) active volcano which could erupt at any time.

The sulphur miners risk their lives daily for a pittance – they are paid as little as £3 ($3.70) a day, working 12 hour shifts to break up solidified sulphur then carry it out of the volcano crater floor.

Around 200 miners work at the site, carrying loads ranging from 75 kg (165lbs) to 90 kg (200lbs), which they sell to a nearby sugar refinery

Around 200 miners work at the site, carrying loads ranging from 75 kg (165lbs) to 90 kg (200lbs), which they sell to a nearby sugar refinery



Lawsuits after the eruption of Mt Ontake

This news isn’t about new volcanic activity in Japan but rather the results of one of the most tragic volcanic events in the last few years. In September 2014, Ontake had a surprising phreatic (or phreatomagmatic) explosion. There was little in the way of clear signs that such a blast was going to occur beyond some volcanic earthquakes that started in the week before the eruption. Ontake is a very popular hiking destination, so many people were on the volcano when the eruption occurred and at least 54 people died as a result of the eruption.

Now, families of some of the victims are suing the local government over the eruption, claiming that they downplayed the threat posed by the volcano and that it was inadequately monitored (only three of five seismometers were working at the time). This is a little bit like the trial of the Italian geologists after the L’Aquila earthquake, where they were blamed for the deaths due to the earthquakes because they downplayed the risk.

The big problem is that geologists monitoring volcanoes or assessing earthquake hazards only have pieces of data from which to work, so making claims without a firm backing can be as bad. If geologists lose credibility because of too many “false positives” about an eruption, then getting people to leave when a real crisis arises can become nearly impossible. The volcanologists from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) worked with the data in hand and determined no apparent threat in Ontake’s behavior. This ended up being incorrect, but not really due to misinterpreting the data that was being collected, however imperfect.

Is the local government (geologists) really to be blamed for the deaths or was it a unavoidable accident?


Inside the Haiti Earthquake (interactive game)

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This interactive game simulates the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti Quake from the perspective of 3 stakeholders – Aid Worker, Survivor and Journalist.

Experience the difficulties of the groups in pursuing their goals and understand the implications of their choices and actions.

Flash is needed for this simulation.

Warning: the simulation contains graphic and disturbing imagery.






Haiti Quake: NGOs may not always be helpful on the ground

Failures of aid.

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

Why the failure despite the massive outpouring of donations to the American Red Cross? 
1. an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak local languages (French or Creole)

The Red Cross said it has “made it a priority to hire Haitians” despite lots of competition for local professionals, and that over 90 percent of its staff is Haitian. The charity said it used a local human resources firm to help.

Yet very few Haitians have made it into the group’s top echelons in Haiti, according to five current and former Red Cross staffers as well as staff lists obtained by ProPublica and NPR.

That not only affected the group’s ability to work in Haiti, it was also expensive.

2. the lack of expertise to mount its own projects

…the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.

3. Prioritised publicity over aid?
Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.
4. Difficult local conditions (including governance)
“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.

Cooking with whatever means possible – Solar Ovens

“Because of the expenses of gas, it’s cheaper to use the solar ovens and using natural energy from the sun,” Esthel said in Spanish through a translator.

A small number of communities in the Dominican Republic are buying solar ovens to cook their meals, avoiding cooking with gas stoves or wood that present financial and health problems.

Sometimes we forget that ensuring food security is not just about having sufficient food supply, but the people also need the means to be able to cook the food for consumption (food safety). This also contributes to a country’s food consumption.