Best of our wild blogs: 25 Dec 16

Changeable Hawk-Eagles of Singapore
Singapore Bird Group

Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies 7
Butterflies of Singapore

Read more!

Flash floods across Singapore cause massive traffic disruptions

Today Online 24 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE — Flash floods and severe traffic disruptions were reported at several locations across Singapore on Saturday evening (Dec 24) following heavy rain.

At the junction of Paya Lebar Road and Sims Avenue, traffic was stuck due to some cars stalling, said Facebook user Tony Lee. Mr Lee also claimed that oil drums and debris were seen floating at the location, with the traffic jam tailed all the way to Eunos.

Another Facebook user Kay Muk also said that “many” cars had stalled along Paya Lebar Road. “Do not drive there”, he warned.

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel were also at Paya Lebar Road helping to extract passengers from what appeared to be a stalled car. SCDF said that it received a call for assistance at about 6pm and had to "manually assist" two persons from the car, but no injuries were reported.

The National Environment Agency issued a weather alert at 5pm, forecasting thundery showers over many areas of Singapore in the evening.

Since 5.45pm, the Land Transport Authority has warned on Twitter of flash floods in at least five locations across Singapore. The areas affected by flash floods are:

Newton Circus (towards Woodlands) after Cavenagh Road
Stevens Road near Anderson Road/Balmoral Park Junction
Balmoral Road near Balmoral Crescent/Balmoral Road Junction
Cairnhill Road near Cairnhill Road/Scotts Road Junction
PIE (towards Changi Airport) at Stevens Rd Exit
Accidents were reported at the following locations, according to the LTA:

Braddell Road (towards Bartley) after Bishan Road. Avoid the left lane.
Macritchie Viaduct (towards Braddell) after PIE
KJE (towards BKE) at Choa Chu Kang Rd Entrance
AYE (towards Tuas) after Lower Delta Rd Exit.

Flash floods hit Singapore on Christmas Eve
Channel NewsAsia 24 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: Flash floods were observed in several parts of Singapore on Saturday (Dec 24), the day before Christmas.

According to the Land Transport Authority's Twitter page, the areas affected are:

Newton Circus (towards Woodlands) after Cavenagh Road
Stevens Road near Anderson Road/Balmoral Park Junction
Balmoral Road near Balmoral Crescent/Balmoral Road Junction
Cairnhill Road near Cairnhill Road/Scotts Road Junction
PIE (towards Changi Airport) at Stevens Rd Exit

Photos sent to Channel NewsAsia also show the streets of Upper Thomson Road flooded with water on Saturday afternoon.

Various users on social media also noted that traffic the area near the junction of Paya Lebar Road and Sims Avenue were stuck due to the floods.

At around 4.33pm, PUB Singapore tweeted that heavy rain was to be expected from 4.40pm to 6pm over many areas across the island.

- CNA/hs

Shops in Upper Thomson Road hit hard by Christmas floods
Saturday's heavy rain hits shops along Upper Thomson Road especially hard
Isabelle Liew The New Paper 28 Dec 16;

It poured on Christmas Eve and the water that gushed into The Roti Prata House at Upper Thomson Road brought with it soil and insects, and knocked over two chillers.

An ice cream parlour located along the same road had to throw away almost $3,000 worth of ice cream, while a tyre shop suffered losses worth thousands of dollars when its equipment broke down.

About eight businesses along Upper Thomson Road were affected by the flood. A waiter at The Roti Prata House, Mr Syed Ridzwan, told The New Paper yesterday that the water in the kitchen was knee-deep. The shop suffered losses of about $15,000.

"All our spices, flour, gravy and rice were spoilt. We had to throw away everything. Two of our chillers fell over and were damaged. A dishwasher was also damaged," he said.

He said the water brought in soil and cockroaches as well. The Upper Thomson MRT Station construction site is nearby.

Mr Syed added: "The flood started at around 5.30pm and subsided by 7.30pm. We cleaned until 4am because it was difficult to scrub the soil off."

He said: "We lost many customers on Saturday and Sunday. Christmas is my (peak) business time and we will usually see a full house."

The eatery resumed regular business on Monday.


An employee at the ice cream parlour, Udders, who declined to be named, said the water in the shop was ankle-deep, resulting in a short circuit of the refrigerator.

The shop switched off all its equipment after that, for fear of being electrocuted.

She told TNP: "We waited for an hour before turning it on. As a result, we had to throw away all our ice cream in the pans as well as the pints in the freezer because they melted and we can't refreeze them.

"Soil, cockroaches and centipedes came in with the water. In the kitchen, dead rats floated from the drain."

The employees closed the shop at 5.30pm to clean up, and resumed business at around 8.30pm. She estimated losses to be about $3,000.

Udders is also planning to put sandbags near the doors, she said.

Nearby shop Tai Huat Tyres and Batteries lost one of their five machines in the flood.

Owner Eu Ah Lek, 79, said the machine, which they use to fix tyres to cars, can cost up to $10,000.

He noted that the flood was the worst he had seen since opening his shop at Upper Thomson Road 31 years ago.

The heavy rain also affected Newton Circus, Balmoral Road, Cairnhill Road and the Pan Island Expressway near Stevens Road, according to the Land Transport Authority.

It also caused traffic jams near the junction of Paya Lebar Road and Sims Avenue, according to social media.

PUB Singapore said in a tweet that wetter weather is expected during this North-east Monsoon season.

On Dec 22, four Singapore-bound flights were diverted to Batam, Indonesia, due to bad weather here.

Read more!

Malaysia, Sabah: Dead dolphin, found on a beach in Kota Belud

KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 24 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) is checking on a dolphin’s carcass found washed up on a beach in Kampung Pintasan, Kota Belud.

Facebook user, Ishee Ishmael, posted, “Dolfin terdampar… pertama sekali seumur hidup nampak secara live… tapi sayang sudah mati” (Stranded dolphin… saw one live for the first time in life… unfortunately it is dead).

He also shared several shots of the mammal this afternoon as well as a video recording of his discovery.

SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan when contacted said the Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit team has been deployed to the location to investigate and collect the carcass.

“We will conduct a post-mortem as soon as possible.

“The public should contact the department or alert the authorities should they stumble upon a case like this, which is related to wildlife,” he said.

Stranded dolphin died of stomach complications, says Sabah Wildlife Department

KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 25 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The rough-toothed dolphin washed ashore at the Kampung Pintasan beach in Kota Belud yesterday has died of stomach complications after ingesting a squid jig.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) assistant director Dr Sen Nathan told the New Straits Times that a post mortem revealed that the eight-inch squid jig was imbedded in the mammal's stomach, causing severe trauma and other complications.

"This adult male dolphin could not eat properly and died of septicaemia caused by the severe wound that the squid jig inflicted in the dolphin's stomach.

"It was a fresh carcass...We estimated it probably died within 24 hours (since being washed ashore).

But the jig had been in the stomach for some time," he said when contacted. Yesterday, a Facebook user shared photographs of the carcass of a steno bredanensis (rough toothed dolphin), estimated around six feet in length.

Policeman Ismail Daud, via his Facebook account named, 'Ishee Ishmael', also shared a video recording of the discovery made sometime after 4pm.

Ismail, 42, said he had stopped by the beach with his family when they stumbled upon the carcass.

"At first I thought it was a piece of wood... We only realised what it was when we got nearer," he said, adding that it was his first time seeing a dolphin upclose in person.

Dolphin may have died from fishing hook infection
The Star 27 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The rough-toothed dolphin that washed onto the shore of Kampung Pintasan was likely to have died due to infections caused by indigestion after it consumed a squid attached on a hook.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said that an eight-inch long hook attached to a squid was found embedded in the stomach of the male adult dolphin during the post-mortem.

“It caused severe trauma and other complications and it died of septicemia (infection) and starvation as it could not eat properly or digest its food,” he said yesterday.

Dr Sen said it could be possible that the dolphin had suffered for at least a month before it died.

“It’s sad to see such a beautiful marine wildlife lose its life due to possible human folly even if it was caused indirectly,” he said.

It was possible the dolphin could have bitten into the squid attached to a hook from an angler or fishermen, he added.

The department’s director Augus­tine Tuuga said it sent its wildlife rescue team to the scene after a Facebook user highlighted the pre­sence of the dolphin carcass along the shore of Kampung Pintasan on Christmas Eve.

Witnesses who see this kind of marine mammals beaching can call the department hotline at 012-801 9289 or send an email to

Squid jig found in stomach of dolphin carcass
The Star 26 Dec 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Fresh carcass of an adult male Rough Toothed dolphin was found on the shore at Kampung Pintasan, Kota Belud, about 75km from here, on the night of Christmas eve with a squid jig stuck in its stomach.

Sabah Wildlife Director Augustine Tuuga said the squid jig measuring eight inches was embedded in the stomach causing severe trauma and other complications.

"We immediately dispatched our Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) to further investigate this case and to find out what happened to the dolphin.

"Though it was Christmas eve, WRU had a team on standby to attend to these kind of cases," he said in a statement here.

Sabah Wildlife Assistant Director Dr Sen Nathan said the WRU team brought the carcass back to Kota Kinabalu for post mortem and was saddened by the discovery of the squid jig.

He said the metal jig, used for catching squid, also led to septicemia (blood poisoning) and starvation, resulting in the mammal's death.

"It is sad to see such a beautiful marine wildlife lose its life due to human folly, even if it was indirectly related.

"I would like to also advise the general public that if they do come across this kind of marine mammal beaching in the future, do give the Sabah Wildlife Department a call at 0128019289 or email us at," he said. - Bernama

Read more!

Indonesia: Peatland restoration helps prevent forest fires

Fardah Antara 25 Dec 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Set up nearly a year ago, Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has wasted no time in protecting and restoring peatlands and, consequently, preventing wildfires in Indonesian forests.

The destruction of peatlands and forest fires are closely linked, because clearing and draining peatlands for oil palm and pulpwood plantations are major causes of Indonesias recurring fire and haze crises.

Last year, haze produced by forest fires impacted the health of thousands of people in South-East Asia, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands, and cost Indonesias economy an estimated $16.1 billion, according to data from the World Bank.

And this year, Indonesia remains haze free, after two decades of experiencing annual forest fires that triggered haze and chocking much of the public, Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has confirmed.

"For the first time, in 2016, we did not experience major forest fires, thanks to the joint hard work of many in the regions. The number of hotspots decreased by 80 to 92 percent, according to the NOAA and Terra satellite methods," the minister said on Dec 10, 2016.

The government has set up an integrated forest fire control team comprising, among others, military and police officers, as well as a preventive and early detection mechanisms to curb forest fires.

Additionally, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), under Presidential Regulation No. 1 of 2016, dated January 6, 2016, established BRG to prevent forest fires, particularly those affecting peatlands, and to restore areas destroyed by fires.

The president ordered the body to draft an action plan to immediately demonstrate to the world that Indonesia is serious about handling the destruction caused to peatland areas.

Jokowi has appointed Nazir Foead as chief of the new agency, describing him as a competent and experienced figure. The agency is a non-structural body under the president and is answerable to him.

Indonesias peatlands are estimated to cover an area of 20.6 million hectares, or about 10.8 percent of Indonesias total land area, of which some 7.2 million hectares, or 35 percent, is located on Sumatra Island.

Peat is partially decayed, dead vegetation, which has accumulated over thousands of years. It is typically saturated with water and, therefore, virtually impossible to set on fire.

Peatlands help to preserve water resources, mitigate flooding, prevent sea water intrusion, support biodiversity, and control the climate through the absorption of carbon and storage.

But when peatlands are cleared to make way for plantations, as they are for palm oil, pulp and paper, carbon-rich peat becomes tinder dry and vulnerable to fires.

BRG has set a target of restoring between two and three million ha of peatland areas.

The task is being carried out through cooperation with several institutions and ministries, such as the environmental affairs and forestry ministry, the public works and housing ministry, the agriculture ministry, the agrarian and spatial layout ministry, and the National Development Plan Agency (Bappenas).

In the first stage, the agency has initiated on-field activities to restore over 800,000 hectares (ha) of peatland areas spread across four districts - Meranti Islands in Riau; Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra; and Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan.

"The (restoration) cost is estimated to reach Rp12 million per ha for five years," BRG Head Nazir Foead informed the press in March 2016.

Additionally, the government has imposed a moratorium on the clearing of land in peatland areas, in line with new government regulation (PP) No. 57/2016 on the revision of PP No. 71/2014 on Peat Ecosystem Management and Protection.

The revision ruled that there should be no land clearing and no issuance of new licenses in peatland areas, especially for deep peatland, Secretary General of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry Bambang Hendroyono said in early December 2016.

Signed by President Jokowi on Dec 2, 2106, regulation no 57/2016 also states that no drainage should be performed, as it causes the peat to dry out, and no fires can be set in peatland areas. Even traditional communities have been barred from setting fires in peatland areas.

The new PP places a permanent moratorium on peatland exploitation, stating that everyone is prohibited from clearing new land until a zoning system for the protection and cultivation of the peatland ecosystem is in place.

"PP No. 57/2016 shows the solid commitment of President Joko Widodo to the protection of peatland ecosystems," stated San Afri Awang, who works with the Forestry Planology and Environmental Management section of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry.

Natural succession, rehabilitation, and restoration are ways of improving the peatland ecosystem. "Natural succession means restoration without any human intervention," he explained.

In addition to the regulation, the government will also intensively monitor peatland restoration efforts.

Minister Siti Nurbaya has issued an assignment letter to San Afri, placing him in charge of a peatland restoration monitoring team.

"The government is very serious (about this). We will monitor it continuously and impose sanctions against violators. This is proof of the governments serious commitment to peatland restoration," Awang added.

As a long term program, BRG has developed innovative technologies to consistently maintain the moisture of peatland in three provinces.

"We ensure the optimal protection of peatland in several Indonesian regions using sophisticated technology developed by the nations experts," Foead stated, after accompanying President Jokowi to visit a peatland site in Pulang Pisau District, Central Kalimantan Province, on Dec 21.

The agency will install the technology to measure water levels and humidity in peatland areas.

The data will be uploaded every hour to the BRG data center, where the technology is managed by the Agency for Study and Application of Technologies, and Hokkaido University of Japan.

If the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency anticipates a lack of rain in the coming days, the BRG will irrigate the peatland area to maintain its optimal humidity, he explained.

The peatland agency will become involved with the local community and authorities in its efforts, he said, adding that maintaining peatland humidity is crucial to prevent fires, since dried peatland is prone to fire.

BRG to complete installation of 2,000 wells in C. Kalimantan
Antara 25 Dec 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) said, it would soon complete installation of 2,000 wells in peatland areas in Central Kalimantan Province.

"In Central Kalimantan Province, we have planned to install 2,000 wells around the peatland," chief of the BRG, Nazir Foead, said.

Of the 2,000 wells, BRG has a commitment to build 400 wells, while local administrations would install 200 wells. The remaining 1,400 wells would be installed by private companies located around the peatland areas.

"As of now, BRG has built 230 wells. The agencys task is to facilitate and worked on coordination with all stakeholders, so that the development of 2,000 wells would be conducted under BRGs concept and methods," he said.

However, he continued, the agency would allow the community to make some improvements on its development.

The agency has allocated Rp3 million for development of each well, although some companies have allocated higher budgets for it.

In addition to Central Kalimantan, some non-governmental organizations have installed similar wells in South Kalimantan and Riau, in cooperation with local universities.

"They need help from local universities to conduct field surveys," he said.

In addition to wells installations, BRG has also blocked canals to control the height of water in peatlands to keep them moist using sacks.

"We also receive funds from the Ministry of Public Works (PUPR) to build canal blocks in 140,000 hectares of peatland areas. The funds came from the ministry," he said.

He expressed hope that they would build additional canals in 2017, using improved structures.

(Reported by RH Napitupulu/Uu.S022/INE/KR-BSR/S012)

Read more!

Indonesia: Flash floods displace 100,000 people in Bima

Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 24 Dec 16;

A series of flash floods that hit Bima municipality and Bima regency, both in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), earlier this week, have displaced over 100,000 local residents and have paralyzed economic activity in the region, local authorities have said.

NTB Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPPD) head Muhammad Rum said on Saturday the flash floods, which swept through the region on Wednesday and Friday following hours of heavy rainfall, had inundated 33 subdistricts, home to a total of 105,000 people.

“Today [Saturday], the floods have started to recede. Some people have left evacuation shelters to return to their homes,” Rum said.

The NTB provincial administration claimed that, as of Saturday, no deaths had been reported from the floods.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) also stated that the two affected regions would be given an emergency status for 14 days until Jan. 4, 2017.

The BNPB reported on Thursday that the flash floods were caused by Cyclone Yvette in the Indian Ocean, some 620 kilometers south of Denpasar, Bali.

NTB on alert after flash floods displace locals
Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 22 Dec 16;

NTB Governor Muhammad Zainul Majdi paid a visit to Bima municipality on Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours after heavy rain triggered flash floods in many parts of the city and the neighboring Bima regency. The two regions share the same name.

“[Makeshift] public kitchens and medical centers are now being set up in every district office, as well as in Bima’s regional and municipal offices,” provincial administration spokesperson Yusron Hadi said on Thursday.

The floods began on Wednesday afternoon in many parts of Bima municipality and a few areas of Bima regency.

Hundreds of locals have reportedly evacuated as their houses have become inundated by floodwaters. The provincial administration claimed that, as of Thursday afternoon, no deaths had been reported from the floods.

Spokesperson for the National Search and Rescue Agency’s (Basarnas) NTB Office I Putu Cakra said to their knowledge five subdistricts in Bima municipality had become the worst-affected areas.

“We have evacuated many villagers from the roofs of their houses, as floodwaters have reached heights of between 1.5 and 2 meters,” he said. (hwa)

Thousands of Bima flood victims still in shelters with many falling ill
Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 25 Dec 16;

More than 6,000 residents of Bima municipality in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) remain in shelters with close to 1,000 having started to contract flood-related diseases following major flash floods that struck the city.

"[Currently,] there are 6,030 people staying in 19 emergency shelters," NTB Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) chief Muhammad Rum said on Sunday.

The 19 shelters have been set up in eight subdistricts: Jatiwangi, Lewirato, Monggonao, Paruga, Penaraga, Penatoi, Sadia and Tanjung.

Residents were using mosques, school buildings and shops as shelters as they could not yet return to their respective homes damaged by the flash floods, Rum said. While others had returned home to clean their houses from debris carried by the floods.

The floods took place in 33 subdistricts of five districts in Bima municipality where at least 105,000 families were affected.

Furthermore, Rum said 929 Bima residents were suffering from respiratory illnesses, skin rashes and diarrhea. Local administrations had set up, jointly with the local military command, several medical posts and a field hospital to help the affected residents.

"We have also distributed logistics aid to the shelters. There are currently seven public kitchens, which can serve up to 5,000 people per kitchen," he said, adding that aid from other regions had also arrived in Bima such as food supplies, clothes, medicine and assistance funds.

The NTB BPBD and local administrations had begun collecting data on the houses and public facilities damaged by the floods on Wednesday.

700 military personnel help clear garbage from flood-hit Bima
Antara 26 Dec 16;

Bima, W Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Some 700 military personnel have been dispatched to flood-hit Bima City in the eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara to help the local people remove the accumulating garbage.

"We have deployed hundreds of personnel. They are all from Sumbawa Island and the provincial capital, Mataram," Commander of Wira Bhakti Military District Command Infantry Colonel Farid Makruf said here on Monday.

He noted the local authorities hoped the city would be clean within a week. So far, they have made available 60 trucks to carry the garbage.

Flash floods hit the city on December 21 and 23, forcing 104,378 people to flee their homes.

Overall, the floods have uprooted 105,758 people in the citys five sub-districts, Chief of the West Nusa Tenggara Provincial Disaster Mitigation Board Mohmmad Rum stated over the weekend.

The floods, triggered by the overflowing of two local rivers following heavy rains, prompted the closure of offices and schools in the city.

According to officials, floodwaters injured one person and destroyed public facilities, including four public health service posts, 28 auxiliary public health service posts, and one office. However, no fatalities were reported from the floods.(*)

Social minister meets Bima flash flood evacuees
Antara 26 Dec 16;

Bima, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Social Service Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa visited hundreds of flash flood evacuees in Bima city, West Nusa Tenggara, on Monday.

During the meeting, the minister asked the evacuees to remain strong and patient.

"This is a test. If we pass it, we will advance to a higher class," she told the evacuees at Baitul Hamid Mosque in Bima city.

If anybody is strong and patient in facing the ordeal, Allah SWT will give them unexpected sustenance, she remarked.

"So, we must always be strong and patient," she said.

The evacuees, who are being sheltered at the mosque, still have access to water as well as public bathing, washing and toilet facilities (MCK), she stated.

Moreover, the two-week emergency response period will end on January 5 next year, she said.

"What we want to see is that the entire assistance is well distributed among the affected residents," she added.

Flash floods hit the city on December 21 and 23, forcing 104,378 people to flee their homes.

Overall, the floods have uprooted 105,758 people in the citys five sub-districts, Chief of the West Nusa Tenggara Provincial Disaster Mitigation Board Mohmmad Rum stated over the weekend.

The floods, triggered by the overflowing of two local rivers following heavy rains, prompted the closure of offices and schools in the city.

According to officials, floodwaters injured one person and destroyed public facilities, including four public health service posts, 28 auxiliary public health service posts, and one office. However, no fatalities were reported.(*)

VP calls for repairs of Bima within four days of flood
The Jakarta Post 28 Dec 16;

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has demanded related agencies to finish repairing sanitation facilities in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, within four days of the recent flood.

Immediate repairs are needed so that people can obtain clean water again for their daily needs, the vice president said when he led a meeting in Bima on Tuesday.

“The VP has ordered repairs of water wells and for the environment to be cleaned up,” said Social Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa on Wednesday as reported by Antara.

(Read also: Bima flood victims to get monthly allowance)

Jusuf chaired a meeting at Bima City Hall on Tuesday to discuss recovery efforts. The meeting was attended by head of National Disaster Management (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei, Bima Mayor Muhammad Quraish and city officials.

After inspecting the flood affected area, Kalla said that water in all wells should be pumped to clean out the waste and other pollutants carried by the flood. Khofifah added that all equipment to do the job should be purchased immediately.

“In short, efforts should be carried out to ensure that this will be finished by Jan 1,” she added.

The flood that swept Bima on Dec. 22 and 23 had also caused serious damages to the city's infrastructure and expelled 8,800 people from their homes in five districts of the city. (bbn)

Bima flooding emergency response applied until Jan. 5: Agency
Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 28 Dec 16;

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has said recovery activities following a massive flooding in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), have continued to be conducted by the government and other organizations, and an emergency response period will remain in effect until Jan. 5.

“Activities have returned to normal. The handling of refugees has continued to improve. About 99.5 percent of power blackouts in Bima have been resolved, and 11 out of 12 electrical relay stations cut off by the flooding have been repaired by state utility company PLN and can now function properly,” BNPB Public Relations and Information Data Center head Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Wednesday.

He said main roads across Bima had been cleared of floodwater and mud. Currently, 650 police and military personnel and volunteers from various organizations have continued to clean mud out of residences.

“To accelerate the removal of flood debris, 70 trucks and five excavators have been dispatched to carry garbage. A new trash disposal site has been opened.”

Sutopo explained the BNPB also provided cash for work assistance channeled through the NTB Disaster Mitigation Agency. He expressed that hopefully, flood victims can start to carry out economic activity to generate income; however, many people cannot immediately get back to work after the natural disaster.

“Cash for disaster relief work is very useful for disaster-affected local communities. This has been implemented through previous disaster mitigation activities, such as during eruptions of Mount Merapi in Central Java and Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra, massive flooding in Manado, North Sulawesi, and an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh,” said Sutopo. (ebf)

Read more!

Philippines: Thousands flee coastal villages as typhoon approaches

Reuters 24 Dec 16;

Philippine authorities on Saturday evacuated thousands in coastal villages in the country's central region where a category 4 typhoon is expected to make landfall later this weekend, bringing strong winds and heavy rains.

The weather bureau said typhoon Nock-ten, locally known as Nina, had earlier packed winds of 130 kmh (93 mph) but has since slowed to 15 kmh, moving west-northwest and was on target to hit Camarines Sur province in the Bicol peninsula.

"Families in Albay's coastlines have started fleeing to safer and higher grounds," Mina Marasigan, a spokeswoman for the national disaster agency, told reporters, adding coastal villagers in both Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte provinces were also told to move to temporary shelters. Albay is a province south of Camarines Sur.

Storm surges and flooding were also expected in low-lying and coastal areas and landslides were feared in mountain slopes, the disaster agency said.

Marasigan said authorities have raised typhoon alert levels in nine provinces along the eastern seaboard, suspending land, sea and air travel until after Sunday to avoid accidents. Thousands of holiday travelers were also stranded in transport terminals.

Several flights have been canceled for the weekend in the central and northeastern parts of the country.

The coast guard also grounded fishing boats. The energy and public works ministries have placed emergency personnel on standby to clear debris from roads and restore power. Soldiers were ordered to help the evacuation of residents.

In 2013, more than 6,000 died and 200,000 homes were destroyed after Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest-ever storm to make landfall in the Philippines, hit the central island of Leyte and Samar.


Israel to re-assess U.N. ties after settlement resolution, says Netanyahu
Pope says Christmas 'hostage' to materialism, God in shadows
About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines each year. Since 1948, at least seven typhoons have hit the country during the Christmas period.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing By Sam Holmes)

Read more!

Vietnam says recovery from Formosa industrial disaster could take a decade

My Pham and Mai Nguyen Reuters 24 Dec 16;

HANOI - Vietnam's central region is expected to take a decade to completely recover from an industrial accident caused by a unit of a Taiwan conglomerate, which led to Vietnam's worst ever environmental disaster, the government said.

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a unit of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics that runs an $11 billion steel plant, sullied more than 200 km (125 miles) of coastline in April, killing more than 100 tonnes of fish and devastating the environment, jobs and economies of four provinces.

Responding this week to questions as part of a Reuters investigation in November, Vietnam's environment ministry said the firm had rectified 50 of 53 violations and was on its way to removing the biggest cause of the disaster, a highly toxic "wet" coking system that Formosa had used in a deliberate violation of its agreement.

After months of mystery over the cause of the deaths of the fish, and public outrage against both the Hanoi government and one of the communist state's largest investors, Formosa agreed in June to pay $500 million in compensation.

The accident emboldened the Vietnamese public over the course of several months, with coordinated rallies in major cities and an outpouring of social media anger in a display of dissent on a scale not seen during the Communist Party's 41 years of tight control of the country.

Thousands of people from the affected region accuse the government of mishandling the disaster and the payment of compensation. Police were criticized for heavy-handed measures to break up street demonstrations.

The government always said it was doing everything it could to investigate the disaster and address the problem.

The ministry said Formosa had disregarded a series of commitments it had made to the government in securing approval to build the plant, which once fully completed would be the largest steel facility in Southeast Asia.


"Formosa had deliberately changed many of the contents of the two environmental impacts assessment reports approved in 2008 including using 'wet' coking system instead of 'dry'," the ministry said a detailed response.

"These changes are illegal."

Formosa did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment on the environment ministry's assessment.

Wet coking uses water for cooling and is considered more polluting, as it generates more emissions and waste water that contains compounds that include cyanide. The dry process is cleaner and widely used in modern plants, but is more costly.

The ministry said it had asked Formosa Ha Tinh to start work on introducing the dry system from the end of next month and it must complete the job by June 30, 2019, at the latest.

The environment in the area has seen some improvement and was expected to be fully restored within 10 years if sufficient rehabilitation work was carried out, it said. Toxicity levels in the sea were under control.

The ministry said it was relatively satisfied with the firm's steps to fix the problems, but more needed to be done.

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel (FHS) executive vice president Chang Fu-ning said earlier that the plant was scheduled to begin full commercial production in the first quarter of 2017, subject to approval.

Formosa has planned to expand the steel plant to include a deepwater port and 1,500-megawatt thermal power complex.

(Reporting by My Pham and Mai Nguyen; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)

Read more!