Indonesia: Thousands displaced after floods, quakes hit

Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 26 Nov 15;

Thousands of people have fled their homes after a series of natural disasters hit several regions in the country over the past several days.

In the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan, floodwater reaching 1-meter-deep inundated thousands of homes in eight districts on Wednesday following heavy rain that poured over the region from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning.

Among the affected districts were Medan Johor, Medan Baru, Maimun and Medan Marelan.

Floodwater also inundated a number of public facilities such as schools and universities, including the North Sumatra University (USU) compound.

The local authority was forced to temporarily shut down schools as floodwater had yet to subside at 10:30 a.m. local time. National Teachers Day celebrations scheduled be held at schools were also canceled.

“This is a special gift for us on Teachers Day. No ceremonies, no activities can be conducted because the whole school compound is inundated,” the principal of SMP 10 Medan state junior high school, Rajo Batubara, said.

Markus Sebayang of Medan Baru said water from the overflowing Babura River had begun entering his house shortly after midnight.

“We immediately moved to higher ground to avoid the flooding,” said Markus, who as of Wednesday afternoon remained at a nearby evacuation center with his family.

Medan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Hanna Lore Simanjuntak said that the agency had been distributing aid, including food and tents, and had set up health posts in all affected areas.

Floodwater also inundated on Wednesday thousands of houses in the neighboring Binjai municipality amid heavy downpours.

The 1-meter deep floods in Binjai resulted in a number of motorized vehicles getting submerged in water as the owners had no time to move them. The flooding also damaged home appliances and electronic devices.

In West Sumatra, heavy rain triggered a landslide on a road connecting Padang and Bukittinggi on the East Malalak section in Agam regency on Wednesday morning.

Agam BPBD head Bambang Warsito said that the landslide had caused traffic congestion on the road section for about six hours while debris was being cleared.

Jl. Malalak is an alternative Padang-Bukittinggi route operated to help manage traffic congestion on the main route, which passes through Lembah Anai. Parts of the alternative route, however, are prone to landslides during the rainy season.

Meanwhile, in North Maluku, thousands of residents of West Halmahera regency fled their homes following a series of earthquakes measuring less than 4.0 on the Richter scale that have rocked the region since last week.

More than 9,000 residents from 19 subdistricts in Jailolo, the regency’s capital, had been living in evacuation shelters since after the first quake hit the regency on Nov. 16, Kompas reported.

Almost 300 homes were severely damaged in Bobanehena subdistrict, one of the worst-hit areas. More than 1,500 villagers have also fled to a nearby hill in anticipation of more quakes.

Jakarta taking measures to mitigate impact of floods
The Indonesian capital is laying out plans to minimise the impact of chronic flooding.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: Indonesia is the fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter due to deforestation, the degradation of peatland, and forest fires. The emissions have an impact on climate change, which in turn can lead to weather extremes of drought and heavy rainfall.

Reducing floods in Jakarta remains a challenge despite efforts to deal with the annual problem. Environmental groups say besides normalising rivers, more needs to be done to preserve green spaces in the capital.

Kampung Melayu in South Jakarta is one of many flood-prone areas in the capital. It was recently hit by floods triggered by intense rainfall in Bogor, around 60km away. The floods inundated Hasanah’s home just next to the Ciliwung river which flows from Bogor.

“This year it flooded twice already, the first was small, but the latest one was bigger,” she said. “The water was up to my head. We couldn’t go anywhere, except move up to the second floor. And if we wanted to eat, whoever could swim would go and buy food."

But by next year, Hasanah may not have to deal with the floods anymore. She expects to be evicted, as her home - built on the banks of the river - is illegal.

The illegal settlements are also part of the problem when it comes to flooding. They contribute to the pollution and clogging of the river, which has narrowed over the years due to the accumulation of rubbish.

The Jakarta administration is taking steps to carry out what is known as normalising of the river, and remove settlements around it. The local government plans to widen the river to about 10 metres, and when that happens the illegally built houses will have to make way.

However, environmentalists believe improving the river will not be enough to alleviate flooding in Jakarta. “There are no efforts to increase areas where water can be absorbed, like green spaces,” said Mukri Friatna, an ecology disaster campaigner for the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.

“In 2013 green spaces only formed 9.8 per cent of the total land area in Jakarta of 60,000 hectares. The law states that every province needs to have about 30 per cent green spaces.

“If there are more green spaces, then there will be larger area to absorb the water, and if there are few green spaces, the water will run off into the river.”

However, the Jakarta water management authority is optimistic that severe flooding can be avoided with the measures being taken. Besides normalising the river, local drainage is also being improved.

“We never talk about how we can eliminate floods, but we will mitigate floods in three ways,” said Tri Djoko Margianto, Head, Jakarta Water Management Services. “We will reduce the spread of the floods. Secondly, we will reduce the depth of the water, and we will improve the time for the water to recede - not to let the floods to continue for days.”

The Indonesian weather agency predicts the rainy season will peak in January or February 2016. With earlier preparations, the Jakarta administration is confident it can better manage any flooding, and if it does happen, officials have set a target to have the floodwaters recede within 12 hours.

- CNA/rw

Medan Govt Under Fire as Subdistricts Flood
Arnold H Sianturi Jakarta Globe 26 Nov 15;

Medan, North Sumatra. Heavy rain causing flooding in eight Medan subdistricts have left residents fuming, complaining the city government refuses to solve the issue.

“Every time the rains pour down heavily, our area is flooded,” Hermansyah of Medan Selayang subdistrict said on Thursday.

Flooding in Medan Selayan is due to poor drainage in the area, which the government continues to ignore, Hermansyah said. Flooding has reached up to 1 meter deep in some areas.

“The government relies on the simple fact that the floods will eventually recede, but they do nothing to anticipate more floods to come. They only fix and dredge the gutters — but not much,” he said.

Liliek, a resident of Medan Polonia, said that each heavy rain is seen as a “frightening natural terror and makes us stay alert all the time for any possibilities of evacuation.”

Godfried Efendi Lubis, a member of the Commission C at the Medan Legislative Council, also criticized the city's Bina Marga Agency — a state agency overseeing the road infrastructure — for not dredging the drainage on a routine basis contributing to the floods.

“There has been no achievement made by the government in flood management. We cannot keep the floods from recurring every time heavy rain happens. It is so humiliating. The government actually has a budget to fix and maintain the drainage as parts of flood management,” Godfried said.

The flooding has become a type of tourism to visiting foreign tourists, he said.

“I have told the related agencies to take preventive actions for the floods. But they always say that the floods will go away after a few hours. It is hard to talk to them."

Medan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) have established evacuation posts throughout the eight subdistricts, providing food, tents and health services.

“Even though the BPBD keeps running evacuation processes and other aid, Bina Marga Agency and other related agencies still need to do more. The drainage and the rivers have to be dredged on a routine basis. We cannot always dependent on the evacuations because those are not solutions,” Hannalore, Medan BPBD Chief, said on Wednesday, as quoted by

Thousands of people evacuated after Halmahera earthquakes
Antara 26 Nov 15;

Solo (ANTARA News) - The continuous earthquakes that rocked the West Halmahera district of the North Maluku Province from November 16 to 25 have resulted in the evacuation of 9,610 people from their residences.

"At least 611 earthquakes occurred between November 16 and 23," the Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated in a press release on Thursday.

Thousands of people from 19 villages in the Jailolo sub-district of the West Halmahera District were evacuated. However, some of the evacuees still carried out their activities during the day.

The continuous earthquakes have led to 237 houses experiencing severe damage, 193 undergoing medium damage and 504 suffering from minor damages. The officers also found 11 public facility buildings that were damaged and the tremors, which also created 500 meter-long cracks in the Galala village.

The Head of the West Halmahera District has announced an emergency situation for 14 days and deployed 75 emergency joint personnel.

The North Maluku Province's administration has delivered 400 cartons of instant noodles and mineral water each. The regional disaster mitigation agency in West Halmahera has also distributed some aid to the evacuation post.

The government has created a team to verify the damaged houses discovered by the national and regional mitigation agency officers, the public works officers, as well as military and police personnel.

The mitigation agency has also asked people to be vigilant and calm while facing the tremors. The agency said the earthquake that occurred in West Halmahera was a continuous earthquake, with the strength of below 5 on the Richter scale.

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