Indonesia: Better efforts needed for disaster preparedness and mitigation

Fardah Antara 28 Jul 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Natural disasters that have hit Indonesia up to June 2017 include floods (37.4 percent), whirlwinds (29.2 percent), landslides (28.9 percent), earthquakes, and forest fires, among other things.

Floods have claimed a total of 88 lives, landslides have claimed 84, and whirlwinds have claimed 19 lives across the country in the first semester of this year.

Natural disasters, in fact, have been forecast by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), as the country is prone to flooding in rainy season and wildfires during drought.

In Dec 2016, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) had given warning to several regions for anticipation of natural disasters.

Anticipation and disaster mitigation preparedness are crucial, given the fact that last year, Indonesia was battered by 2,342 natural disasters, the highest in the past 14 years, making it one of the most violent years in recent times. As many as 522 people were killed in the disasters.

Natural disasters have inflicted material losses and caused a lot of suffering, mostly among the poor, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, BNPB spokesman, stated. He called on the media to help promote greater awareness of disasters among the public.

In East Bangka District, Bangka Belitung Province, recent flooding inflicted material losses reaching Rp338 billion.

"We do not have the exact figure, but our estimate is that the material losses have reached Rp338 billion," Yuslih Ihza, East Belitung District Head, noted on July 24, 2017.

Losses from destruction of infrastructure were estimated at Rp300.7 billion, while losses from agricultural and animal husbandry were worth over Rp16 billion.

He planned to seek assistance from the central and provincial governments to repair the affected infrastructure particularly.

"It happens that this Thursday (July 27), there will be a meeting with President Joko Widodo, the Governor of BI (central bank), and the Public Works and Public Housing Minister. I think this is the right momentum to talk about infrastructure that was destroyed or damaged by the disaster," he stated.

The Bangka Belitung chapter of Bank Indonesia (BI) has predicted that flooding and extreme climate that affected the province lately could cause economic sluggishness.

The flooding in East Belitung has affected food stock and damaged infrastructure, which consequently disturbed logistic supply and distribution, Bayu Martanto, head of BI Office in Bangka Belitung, noted.

Paddy harvest failure due to flooding in Belitung and East Belitung Districts would also affect food supply, he added.

The local BI office has taken several measures to guarantee food supply and stabilize the economy.

Besides, the provincial government of Bangka Belitung Islands has distributed 40 tons of rice to help flood victims in Belitung and East Belitung Districts, by addressing food shortage following the disaster.

The Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of Bangka Belitung (Babel) Province has deployed a helicopter to distribute aid and evacuate flood victims in Belitung Island.

Meanwhile, in Tulungagung, East Java Governor Soekarwo remarked that salt crisis in the province currently is due to bad weather that has cause a decrease in salt production.

"Hence, salt production in East Java is 174 thousand tons per month during summer. But lately, there has been more rains, and the weather is cloudy. Hence, salt production has dropped to 123 thousand tons," Soekarwo revealed.

Salt quality has also decreased because of rains.

He claimed that in this case, he felt helpless because it was caused by nature.

Indonesia has been facing a salt scarcity over the last three weeks due to bad weather.

Floods have also affected 21 villages in five sub-districts in Murung Raya District, and North Barito District, Central Kalimantan Province, after the Barito River overflowed its banks recently.

Personnel of the Murung Raya disaster mitigation offices swift reaction team had been deployed in the flood-affected areas to help victims.

Flooding has affected a village in Pertama Intan Sub-district, five villages in Murung Sub-district, two in Laung Tuhup Sub-district, three villages in Barito Tuhup Raya Sub-district, and two villages in Sumber Barito Sub-district.

Floodwaters, reaching a height of up to more than a meter, submerged the villages of Sumpoi, Purul Cahu Seberang, and Juking Pajang in Murung Sub-district, as well as the villages of Muara Laung I, Muara Laung II, and Muara Teweh in Laung Tuhup Sub-district.

Thousands of villagers were forced to evacuate to higher ground. School buildings and medical facilities were also flooded.

In addition to flooding, several provinces in Indonesia are also currently being hit by forest and plantation fires.

The fire-affected provinces include Aceh, Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, and West Kalimantan Provinces. As of July 25, a total of 179 hotspots were detected in those provinces.

In Aceh Province, wildfires have gutted some 70 hectares of peatland area in West Aceh District over the past one week, according to the Aceh disaster mitigation office (BPBA).

The wildfires were found in six sub-, namely Johan Palawan, Meureubo, Samatiga, Kaway Enam Belas, Woyla Barat, and Arongan Lambalek in the district of West Aceh, Yesmadi, BPBA head, revealed here on Wednesday.

The efforts to extinguish the fires were difficult because the fires occurred in peatland located deep in forest.

Haze coming from the fires has forced temporary closure of several schools in Meulaboh.

At least 23 people were given medical treatment in Cut Nyak Dhien Hospital in Meulaboh for respiratory infection.

West Aceh has asked the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to help extinguish the fires by deploying water bombing helicopters.

"Thank God, BNPB is ready to send two helicopters. One has arrived and another is coming today," he explained.

Besides, the Environment and Forestry Ministry deployed its land-forest fire task force to extinguish the raging blazes. (*)