Indonesia braces itself for floods, as heavy rains continue

The Indonesian government has strengthened measures to deal with the potential hazards of floods and landslides as the nation braces for heavy rainfall. The move came amid mounting concerns of Cyclone Cempaka.
The Indonesian government has strengthened measures to deal with the potential hazards of floods and landslides as the nation braces for heavy rainfall. The move came amid mounting concerns of Cyclone Cempaka. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Indonesian government has strengthened measures to deal with the potential hazards of floods and landslides as the nation braces for heavy rainfall, which is estimated to sweep the country over the next three months.

The move came amid mounting concerns of Cyclone Cempaka, which hit Java Island with heavy rains and wind earlier this week, causing floods and landslides that turned deadly in several areas on Tuesday (Nov 28).

Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs Puan Maharani gathered a number of representatives from related ministries and state institutions in a meeting to discuss the risk of floods and landslides, particularly during peak rainfall in December, January and February.

Speaking after the meeting, Puan said the government has been preparing for disaster mitigation.

"Local administrations will also be informed so they can start anticipating (floods and landslides) in the coming months of heavy rain," Puan said, adding that the Home Ministry was tasked with leading the campaign to disseminate information.

Floods and landslides caused by Cyclone Cempaka, which hit at least 13 villages in Pacitan, Kebonagung and Arjosari, East Java, have claimed 11 lives with 4,000 people reportedly in dire need of evacuation.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) had previously issued a warning of the cyclone hitting Java and Bali islands. The cyclone's winds reached 65 kilometres per hour on Tuesday, affecting at least 21 regencies and municipalities.

As the heavy rain and strong winds continued on Wednesday, floods and landslides occurred in dozens of villages in several municipalities on Central Java.

In Surakarta, hundreds of houses were inundated following heavy rainfall from Tuesday morning to Wednesday at dawn, causing thousands of residents to flee their homes for shelter.

Similar incidents also occurred in two villages in Weru district in Sukoharjo, and eight villages in Bayat district in Klaten. The floods reportedly hit hundreds of houses and covered hundreds of hectares of paddy fields.

In Wonogiri, the Search and Rescue (SAR) team recorded dozens of floods and landslides in 14 districts following hours of heavy rainfall.

Two people died in a landslide in Tirtomoyo district and two more were killed in a flood in Manyaran district in the worst such disaster in the area in the last 10 years.

In 2007, 17 residents were killed after 2-metre-high floodwater swept an area in Tirtomoyo.

"At least 2,000 residents have been evacuated. They are now taking refuge in tents," Wonogiri's Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Bambang Haryanto said.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has found that at least 60 million Indonesian citizens live in flood-prone areas, 40 million in landslide-prone areas and 4 million in tsunami-prone areas.

As of Nov 20, the BNPB recorded 545 landslides and 689 floods across the country, making the latter the most frequent natural disaster until almost the end of 2017.

The agency has prepared any possible measures, ranging from an early warning system to emergency funds, to mitigate the effects of the disasters and to take care of residents who fell victim to floods and landslides, BNPB head Willem Rampangilei said.

"At the same time, we will conduct assessments of all damage (caused by the disasters) to accelerate the repair work," Willem added.

Social Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said her office has prepared 278 tons of rice to be delivered to shelters across the country to reach people affected by the floods and landslides across the country.

The BMKG has detected a potential new cyclone that has formed off the southwest of Bengkulu in the Indian Ocean, and was moving to the east toward West Java and Banten provinces.

"(The cyclone) is continuing to move to the east and probably will come to the southwest of Sukabumi in West Java, causing at least strong winds until Dec 2," BMKG researcher Muhammad Iip said.