Indonesia: After prolonged haze issues, Riau faces floods as rains begin

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 17 Nov 15;

Riau is now free of haze after continuous downpours for almost two weeks, but floods are looming along with the approaching rainy season. Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said the rainy season in Riau would last until the end of the year.

“In general, the weather in Riau is bright and cloudy. Potential light and heavy rain, followed by lightning and strong wind, taking place at noon, in the afternoon and evening, could occur in large parts of Riau,” Sugarin said on Monday.

According to him, high intensity rain had been helpful in dousing hot spots and reducing haze in the province. “Riau has been free of haze and hot spots in the past week and visibility in several regions is also good, reaching up to 8 kilometers,” he said.

“Hot spots were still found in other provinces in Sumatra as of Monday morning, when 11 hot spots were detected — nine in South Sumatra, one in Lampung and one in Bangka Belitung. We hope the conditions in Riau would remain favorable, as the downpours have diminished the potential for land and forest fires,” added Sugarin.

Last month, the Riau Health Agency recorded that up to 54,135 people in the province had experienced haze-related health issues.

Earlier, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said 10 people had died in Sumatra and Kalimantan due to smog from forest and land fires, which included those killed in operations to extinguish the fires and victims of acute respiratory infections.

In spite of that, Sugarin said, high rainfall ahead of the end of the year could trigger other disasters in Riau.

“The high rainfall could trigger floods and landslides, so we urge every region to be prepared and anticipate the situation,” he added.

Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger said he had received the early warning and had taken anticipatory steps. “We have mapped out the regions prone to disasters,” said Edwar.

He said the areas most prone to flooding were Rokan Hulu, Kampar, Pelalawan and Kuantan Sengingi regencies and Pekanbaru city.

“Although the volume of rainfall is predicted to be lower than last year, Riau BPBD personnel, together with those from the regency and city BPBD offices, are already on standby at locations hit by floods in the past several years. We have prepared everything before the rainy season arrives,” said Edwar.

The landslide-prone areas in Riau are generally situated along the slopes of the Bukit Barisan mountain range on the border between West Sumatra and North Sumatra.

“We have positioned heavy machinery in Kampar, Rokan Hilir and Rokan Hulu regencies, so it can be deployed in the event of a landslide to help with evacuations and to clear roads,” said Edwar.

“Although we must anticipate the floods, the Riau BPBD will continue to monitor the development of hot spots in Riau. Two helicopters are on standby at the Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru to extinguish land and forest fires. The rainy season will not be as long as the dry season, which will arrive in January next year and the potential for fires is very big,” added Edwar.

Separately, Riau Social Office head Syarifudin AR also claimed he had made preparations to face the rainy season, such as stocking up on non-perishable food like canned fish and instant noodles as well as equipment such as rubber dinghies and emergency tents.

“Everything regarding relief aid, equipment and personnel has been prepared. According to its authority, the Social Office is tasked with handling evacuations and public kitchens at disaster locations, while the other tasks are under the authority of the BPBD and Health Office,” said Syarifudin.

Flooding hits Jakarta after long dry season
Indra Budiari, The Jakarta Post 17 Nov 15;

After a long dry season, the first floods of the rainy season hit Jakarta on Monday, submerging a number of densely populated areas in the capital, including Rawajati in South Jakarta and Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta.

“There was no rain at all on Sunday. Yet, in the evening, I received a warning that my house would be inundated by floodwater,” said Rawajati resident Wakiah, 48, while joining her neighbors to clean the road in front of their houses from mud. “Well, I am used to it, so I don’t feel afraid or panic.”

Wakiah said that after the warning, her family immediately put things like clothes and the television on the second floor of her relative’s house next door.

Several neighborhoods near rivers in Jakarta are often affected by flooding during the rainy season by water coming from the upstream area of Bogor, West Java. On Sunday and Monday, Jakarta was relatively dry but heavy rains poured down in Bogor.

Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) spokesperson Bambang Surya Putra said that on Sunday evening, the officials put Jakarta on alert because water levels continued to rise at Bogor’s Katulampa sluice gate, which is the vital benchmark of possible flooding in Jakarta.

According to him, the water rose to 210 centimeters overnight following heavy rain in Bogor and as a result, nine areas along the Ciliwung river were inundated. The areas were Cililitan, Kampung Melayu, Bidara Cina, Cawang, Buaran Tengah, Kampung Gedong — all in East Jakarta, as well as Pasar Minggu, Rawa Jati and Kebon Baru in South Jakarta.

In Rawajati, the water level reached 1.5 meters, Wakiah said, while showing the high water mark on her neighbor’s wall. The flooding was still far less severe than that seen in 2013 she added, in which the water level reached 3 meters.

Nurhayati from Kampung Pulo, Kampung Melayu, also said that Monday’s water level was not as high as 2013, when flooding almost submerged her two-story house.

She said the water started flooding her house at around 2 a.m. and kept rising until it reached almost two meters — or as high as the first floor of most houses in the neighborhood.

Like Wakiah, she said that her family was used to flooding and did not panic after receiving the flood alert on Sunday evening via mobile phone messages and an announcement from the nearest mosque.

She went on to say that her family and others in the neighborhood started to move important belongings to the second floor, as well as moving vehicles to the nearest parking lots outside the flood risk area.

She added that they also saved some water and bought candles to anticipate a blackout.

As the floods had already come, her family activities — such as cooking and washing clothes — would be concentrated on the second floor until 2016, she added.

“We will keep our belongings on the second floor until the rainy season ends in 2016. We never know when the floods will come again,” Nurhayati said in front of her house, where a number of cockroaches crawled over the front wall as floodwaters still covered the ground.

Jakarta Water Management Agency head Tri Djoko Sri Margianto claimed the high level of solid waste in the Ciliwung river was one of the main causes of the flooding. He said waste had clogged several areas of the river and hampered the flow of water.

According to him, the Kalibata area in South Jakarta was an example of how a modern system of garbage dredging needed to be applied.

“Just look under Kalibata Bridge, there is a lot of waste stuck in the river. Kalibata should have a garbage dredging system like the one in Manggarai [South Jakarta],” he said.

He explained that the Ciliwung river normalization process would be completed in December 2016 and that he was upbeat that flooding would be reduced once the project was finished.

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said sheet piles used by his administration had successfully protected a number of flood-prone areas.

“However, there are also places like Kampung Pulo that are yet to be covered by sheet pile. Therefore, those areas are still inundated by floodwater,” he continued. (agn)

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