Popular Indonesian disaster information chief Sutopo battling lung cancer

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho asked that the media not hesitate to check in with him if disaster strikes and information is needed.
Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho asked that the media not hesitate to check in with him if disaster strikes and information is needed.PHOTO: TATAN SYUFLANA

JAKARTA - Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho is the single most-quoted Indonesian official in the news during any disaster, from the transboundary haze crisis in 2015, the evacuations around Bali's Mount Agung volcano, and the recent flood crisis that triggered landslides in various parts of the country.

As head of data and information at the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), journalists and millions of Indonesians look to him for clarity - often in his real-time Tweets - during any crisis.

The 48-year-old, however, is now battling his own crisis after news broke on Monday (Feb 12) night that he is suffering from stage-four lung cancer.

"The doctor said I have stage-4B lung cancer in mid-January," Dr Sutopo told journalists in a WhatsApp message.

"Initially I was shocked because I don't smoke, no genetic (history of cancer) and I keep a healthy diet, but I think, yeah, never mind, it's my lifeline."

He added that his routine has not changed and asked that the media not hesitate to check in with him if disaster strikes and information is needed.

"I will keep on doing my regular activities, remain at work, serving my colleagues in the media and the community… please pray so that I can recover and continue to give my best for the community," he said.

Support for Dr Sutopo poured in on social media with many wishing him well and offering words of encouragement.

Dr Sutopo developed a reputation in recent years for being a straight-shooter when it comes to sharing information with the media and public.

The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) in December acknowledged his efforts during its annual general meeting in December, calling him an "outstanding spokesman".

JFCC vice president Archicco Guilianno told The Straits Times on Tuesday (Feb 13) that Dr Sutopo is prolific on social media, constantly providing information on disasters and its aftermaths through Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook "24/7".

"He has been a great ally for journalists and a point of reference for people in general," added Mr Archicco. "I remember talking to a village leader in Bali who wouldn't evacuate his people from Mount Agung until he saw a Tweet from the BNPB, which in this case was from Sutopo, who else?"