Indonesia: Floods engulf hundreds of homes in Riau, Gorontalo after drought

Rizal Harahap and Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, The Jakarta Post 18 Nov 15;

After suffering from prolonged drought and haze for months, hundreds of houses in Riau and Gorontalo provinces were hit on Tuesday by floods marking the beginning of the rainy season.

Floodwater engulfed four districts in Rokan Hulu regency after high rainfall over the Bukit Barisan mountain range in the past week prompted a number of rivers to overflow and inundate homes.

“The data is still being recapitulated. We estimate the number of engulfed homes could reach the thousands,” said Rokan Hulu Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Aceng Herdiana.

Aceng said heavy rains in upstream areas had also caused the Aliantan, Tapung and Rokan rivers to burst their banks and engulf a number of villages in Rokan IV Koto, Kabun and Tandun districts.

In Rambah district, floods caused the Batang Lubuh and Pawan rivers to overflow, with the water level reportedly starting to rise at 6 a.m. local time before deluging homes with waist-high water by 9 a.m.

The floods also inundated a stretch of the Trans-Sumatra highway between Riau and North Sumatra, which passes through Pasir Pangaraian, the capital of Rokan Hulu.

According to Aceng, the affected villages were in upstream areas.

“Tomorrow, the floods will shift to downstream areas. Based on the annual pattern, the next areas that will be hit by floods are Rambah Hilir, Kepenuhan Hulu and Kepenuhan villages, and eventually Bonai and Kunto Darussalam villages,” he said.

Based on preliminary data from the Rambah district office, at least 174 homes in Rambah Tengah Hulu village were engulfed by floods. In Pematang Berangan village, 79 homes were reportedly deluged, while in Tanjung Belit, the floods affected 30 homes.

“The government has begun distributing relief aid such as food packages to flood victims in Rambah Tengah Hulu village,” said Rambah district chief Arie Gunadi.

Apart from Rambah district, aid has also been distributed to victims in Kabun and Tandun districts. Relief for victims in other villages will be jointly coordinated with the Rokan Hulu Social Office.

“This morning, thousands of rice packages have been distributed to flood victims. At noon, a public kitchen was set up at the joint post in front of the Indonesian Red Cross headquarters in Pasir Pangaraian, where up to 3,000 packages of rice will be distributed to victims,” said Aceng.

“Fortunately, there were no reports of casualties or injuries,” he said, adding that the value of damage caused had yet to be estimated.

Apart from the decreasing number of upstream catchment areas, he said the annual floods in Rokan Hulu were caused by badly silted rivers and accumulated garbage.

Meanwhile, after suffering from drought for almost five months, floods hit hundreds of houses in three villages in West Limboto, Gorontalo.

At least 115 homes in Padenengo village, 45 houses in Yosonegoro and 90 in Haya were flooded. The water level reached more than 1 meter.

Gorontalo BPBD’s emergency division head Asna Datau said residents were staying in their houses.

“We are still monitoring the situation as there is still heavy rain in the area,” Asna said.


Riau Panned for Spending More on Student Congress Than Fighting Forest Fires
Jakarta Globe 18 Nov 15;

Jakarta. Critics have torn into the Riau provincial administration for spending Rp 3 billion ($217,300) to host an Islamic students’ congress – more than double the amount it allocated to fight fires that razed tens of thousands of hectares of forest and sickened thousands of residents with a choking haze.

“This is money that will be used to fund a student group’s event. The sum is irrational,” Usman, from the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency, or Fitra, told Tempo on Wednesday.

He noted that the beneficiary of the money, the Islamic Students Association, or HMI, was not a government organization and thus was not obliged to receive funding from the provincial administration.

Saiman Pakpahan, a public policy expert at Riau University, said separately that the use of the money was highly inappropriate in light of the paucity of funding that the administration allotted to put out forest fires.

“It’s like the [Riau] government doesn’t want to use the provincial budget in the interests of the people and instead gives it to this certain group,” he said. “During the haze crisis over the past three months, the government only allocated Rp 1.4 billion, while for this HMI congress it’s giving Rp 3 billion.

“The congress is the association’s own internal business and thus it shouldn’t receive public funding. If the HMI doesn’t have enough money for its own event, it still doesn’t have the right to impose on the local government to ask for funding from the regional budget,” Saiman added.

He also argued that the decision set a bad precedent, and warned that other groups could also demand funding from the provincial administration.

“Is the government ready to allocate more funds to other groups? Remember, all organizations will want to be treated equally,” he said.

Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, the interim governor, said however that the HMI congress would benefit the province in many ways.

“It is a national event, so many important guests throughout Indonesia will be invited,” he said as quoted by Riausatu.com. “There will be about 5,000 guests in attendance, and they’ll spend money on hotel rooms, food, even sightseeing and souvenirs.


Disaster preparedness increased as rainy season begins
Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post 19 Nov 15;

Entering the rainy season, the South Sulawesi Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) is preparing to deal with seasonal natural disasters, including floods and landslides.

Agency head Syamsibar said he had conducted a coordination meeting with all BPBD on the regency and city level across the province for the same disaster preparedness.

Coordination with other relevant agencies, such as social affairs agencies, health agencies and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), had also been made, he said.

“Every year during the rainy season floods and landslides always occur in a number of regions in South Sulawesi. We need to get prepared for that earlier,” said Syamsibar, who is currently acting regent of Selayar.

Among the efforts made, he said, included the dissemination of information on disaster preparedness, such as to not panic in time of disaster, to prioritize self and family safety, to prepare evacuation tools and tents, as well as health, social and supply posts.

In South Sulawesi, according to Syamsibar, there were 18 regencies and cities considered prone to floods. They included Makassar, Maros, the Pangkajene Islands, Barru, Wajo, Sinjai, Bulukumba, Palopo, Luwu and North Luwu.

Three other regencies, namely Tana Toraja, North Toraja and Gowa, were prone to landslides, he added.

The head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Region IV Makassar, Sujarwo, said the region was currently still in a transitional period from dry to rainy seasons.

He said rains had occasionally started to pour over some regions, such as Makassar that has had a rainfall of only 50 millimeters. He said the rainy season in the province was predicted to start by the end of this month or the beginning of next month.

He warned people to be cautious because during the transitional period rain normally came along with strong winds and lightning and tornados could possibly come at any time to sweep away people’s houses.

“We have to be alert starting from now,” Sujarwo said.

Meanwhile, floods inundated Muara Teweh in North Barito regency, Central Kalimantan because of the overflowing Bengaris River, a tributary of the Barito River, following heavy rain in the area from Tuesday night until early Wednesday morning.

“The floods have inundated the houses since Wednesday morning, but started to subside at about 11:30 a.m.,” Tedy Sambas of Jl. Ronggolawe, Muara Teweh, said on Wednesday, adding that the floods left mud behind.

Other areas submerged by floods included Jl. Simpang Pramuka II, Jl. Wira Praja and the Mekar Indah residential complex, Antara reported.

Tedy said that the floods only inundated the housing areas for five to six hours, but they could last longer if the Barito River overflows.

“If the water level of the Barito increases, the flood would surely last longer because the Bengaris’ water could not flow out,” he said.

The head of BMKG Muara Teweh’s technical personnel group, Sunardi, said the heavy rain that caused flooding in the regency totalled 134 millimeters.

“The BMKG recorded that the rain only fell for about two hours, but it was really heavy,” he said.

On Tuesday, hundreds of houses in Rokan Hulu regency in Riau and Gorontalo were hit by floods.

The high rainfall in the regency prompted a number of rivers to overflow and engulf the buildings.

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