Indonesia: Floods isolate 3,000 families in Riau

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 18 Jan 16;

Thousands of residents in Kampar regency, Riau, have been struggling to survive over the past two months after floods and landslides cut the main transportation links to and from the area.

In November, a series of floods and landslides hit Kampar Kiri Hulu district, heavily damaging the road access to four villages and sweeping away five bridges within the area.

Since then, 3,000 families in Kebun Tinggi, Pangkalan Kapas, Lubuklinggau and Tanjung Permai subdistricts have mainly relied on food supplied by the provincial administration, according to Kampar Kiri Hulu district chief Nuzul Ashal.

“In December, the administration delivered logistical aid to the affected areas by helicopter. That aid, however, has already run out while there is no sign that other supplies will come,” Nuzul said recently.

Some villagers, according to Nuzul, have been forced to walk some 20 kilometers to Taram subdistrict in Limapuluh Kota regency, West Sumatra province, to buy food.

Others, meanwhile, counted on four staple-food vendors that received supplies from neighboring regions.

“Of course, the price for such food products soars,” Nuzul said, adding that a kilogram of rice could cost Rp 30,000 (US$2.14) while a pack of instant noodles was priced at Rp 10,000, more than three times their normal prices.

The food scarcity has also been exacerbated by the fact that many residents currently have no income, as they are unable to sell rubber sap, the main commodity in the district, outside the region.

“Many residents who are sick have preferred to stay at home as they have no money to pay for their medication,” Nuzul said.

Separately, Riau’s Social Affairs Agency head Syarifuddin said the provincial administration was looking for alternative ways to send logistical aid to the affected regions.

“We have some 270 tons of rice in our storage. The problem is how do we send it?” he said on Sunday.

To prevent hunger from occurring, Syarifuddin said his agency was planning to deliver smaller amounts of logistics through the Kampar-Limapuluh Kota border.

“As we’re working on the logistics delivery, we expect Kampar regional administration to deploy heavy machinery to restore road access through Lipat Kain [subdistrict], which is closer to the affected areas,” he said.

Kampar, home to some 750,000 people, is located around 100 kilometers southwest of the Riau provincial capital of Pekanbaru. The regency shares its western border with Limapuluh Kota.

Kampar Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Santoso, however, said the regional administration was unable to repair the damaged road due to a lack of funding and authority.

“The damaged road is classified as a provincial road. It is actually the Riau provincial administration that has the responsibility to fix it,” he said.

Santoso said the BPBD had requested the regency’s Spatial Planning and Human Settlement Agency to deploy heavy machinery soon after the landslides.

“The agency, however, said they couldn’t approve the request as it didn’t have the operational budget for it,” he said.

Without any immediate support from either regional or provincial administration, local residents have been working to clear landslide debris from the road using any available tools.

“Such efforts, however, have yielded insignificant results as the landslide debris is so great. Meanwhile, rain keeps coming,” Nuzul said.

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