Indonesia Must Boost Disaster Prevention Efforts: Experts

Officials estimate that natural disasters incur losses of as much as Rp 30 trillion ($2.3 billion) on average
Jakarta Globe 19 Jan 15;

Jakarta. As natural disasters continue to hit parts of Indonesia, more regional leaders are asking for an increase in disaster relief funding from the central government.

Should Indonesia fail to boost its prevention efforts, state spending on rescue operations and the rebuilding process will only continue to expand, experts on the matter have argued.

The budget, they added, could otherwise be used for other purposes, such as developing the nation’s infrastructure.

Officials estimate natural disasters incur losses of up to Rp 30 trillion ($2.3 billion) on average, while disaster relief funds available for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) total only Rp 3 trillion per year.

Officials from East Nusa Tenggara’s local disaster-management agency reported on Saturday that natural disasters, including floods and landslides, have killed seven people across 13 districts so far this year, causing billions of rupiah in damages.

“These disasters have not only killed our people, they have also destroyed houses and public infrastructure,” said Tini Thadeus, head of the East Nusa Tenggara disaster agency.

The province’s East Sumba district has so far reported losses of up Rp 1 billion from floods and torrential rains, during which some 700 houses were damaged.

The local disaster agency is still estimating losses caused by natural disasters in 12 other districts and has asked for help from the BNPB, Tini said.

Floods and landslides are common occurrences throughout the archipelago during the rainy season, which usually runs from October to April.

The BNPB said as many as 270 districts and municipalities in Indonesia, a majority of which are on the islands of Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, are prone to landslides. These areas are home to 124 million people — about half the country’s population.

According to a 2012 study sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund, BNBP and the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), 99 percent of Indonesia’s population of 250 million people lives in an area with “very high risk” of natural disasters, meaning at least one natural disaster has occurred in the area in the past five years.

Experts have agreed that with global warming and climate change disrupting weather patterns, including by triggering more frequent and heavier rainfall, the prevalence of natural disasters might
continue to increase, posing even more threats to Indonesia.

A recent landslide in Banjarnegara, Central Java, claimed 39 people after heavy rain triggered the disaster, burying dozens of homes.

More than a dozen of people were injured and more than 70 others remain missing, while a total of 577 people have been displaced from their homes and are now staying in temporary shelters, the BNPB says.

Geologist Haryadi Permana of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, or LIPI, and Gede Suantika, an official with the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) both agreed that the country need to boost its preventive measures to avoid more victims and damages.

“We must intensify warnings against disasters ahead of rainy months,” Gede said.

Floods inundate 16 districts and cities across Indonesia
Antara 14 Jan 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Floods have inundated thousands of houses in 16 districts and cities across Indonesia over the past few days, stated an official.

"As earlier predicted, floods will continue to intensify as we enter January. Rainy season in January has the potential to trigger floods and landslides," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), noted here on Tuesday.

The peak of the rainy season is forecast to occur in January until February and is likely to trigger floods and landslides, he claimed.

The flood-affected districts and cities include Malinau, Langkat, Kudus, Tegal, Demak, Rokan Hilir, Pandeglang, Semarang, Situbondo, Aceh Tamiang, Donggala, Labuan Batu Utara, Tebing Tinggi, Medan, Kupang, and Jayapura.

"Although there is no major flooding, thousands of houses have been inundated in the regions," he noted.

The Tebing Tinggi city in North Sumatra has been flooded on three occasions during the last two weeks following incessant torrential rains in Simalungun Districts upstream areas that triggered Padang and Bahilang rivers to overflow their banks.

"Flood waters reaching heights between 20 centimeters and 1.5 meters inundated the sub-districts of Padang Hulu, Bajenis, Tebing Tinggi, and Rambutan in Tebing Tinggi District," he stated.

The Tebing Tinggi disaster mitigation office (BPBD) has evacuated several flood victims and has distributed relief aid.

In Demak District, Central Java Province, several villages in Karangwetan sub-district were flooded after the Cabean River broke its embankment at Rejosari village, he stated.

Some 257 houses in Demak were submerged in flood waters, while the Grobogan Purwodadi-Semarang road was also inundated by flood waters scaling heights of up to 50 centimeters.

"The National Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecast very high-intensity rains in January 2015 to potentially occur in Central Javas northern coastal areas, western, and southern Banten, Aceh, South Sulawesi, Gorontalo, North Sulawesi, Papua and West Papua," he reported.

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