Indonesia celebrates New Year amid landslide disasters
By Andi Abdussalam
Jakarta (ANTARA News) – While the floods that hit Jakarta in February 2007 killing more than 80 residents and causing a total loss of about Rp8 trillion are still fresh in people`s minds, almost a hundred people lost their lives in landslides in East and Central Java on Wednesday.
The landslides happened and buried innocent residents while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was witnessing a tsunami simulation drill in Banten, West Java.
The tragedies in East and Central Java also coincided with a function attended by the social affairs minister in Aceh to observe the third anniversary of the deadly tsunami which devastated the country`s westernmost province and killed almost 200,000 people on December 26, 2004.
Wednesday`s landslides in East and Central Java appeared to be only `seasonal` disasters in which nature always demands human and material sacrifices as retribution for damage to the environment.
Natural disasters occurred repeatedly in the country this year. Hundreds of people lost their lives in landslides and floods, not to mention those killed in earthquakes and other natural disasters.
In January, for example, at least 26 people were killed in flash floods and landslides hitting Sangihe district, North Sulawesi. A total of 5,345 people were forced to take refuge in safer areas. In neighboring Central Sulawesi some 70 villagers died in floods in July.
Floods and landslides also took place in almost all islands across the country. In Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara province, at least 40 people were killed when landslides hit the district.
Rescue workers were even unable to recover all of the victims and ceased their search for around 34 people who were still missing. The landslides and flash floods that occurred from March 1 to 3, 2007, forced some 5,231 people to evacuate to safer places. The disaster also damaged 67 houses, school buildings and farming areas.
In the meantime, the number of dead victims in the floods and landslides that hit Morowali district, Central Sulawesi, in July was recorded at 72 persons, but there were other reports saying the death toll was only 51. Morowali district head Datlin Tamalagi said the death toll was 72 while the Health Ministry said it was 51 with 39 people missing. During this disaster, 8,569 people were displaced.
In neighboring Luwuk district, South Sulawesi, 15 people were reported killed in floods.
Usually, floods hit the country at the end or the beginning of the year when it is the rainy season. Disasters can hit any area or province, including Jakarta, the national capital.
In February, floods in the Indonesian capital and its surrounding area comprising the towns of Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi killed at least 80 residents and caused material losses amounting to about Rp8 trillion.
The Jakarta floods which inundated about 60 percent of the capital`s territory caught the attention of various countries and prompted them to send Relief aid to Indonesia.
President George W. Bush called Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to extend his condolences on the death of almost one hundred people after days of flooding.
Bush who visited Indonesia in November 2006 also expressed his “support” for the Indonesian people and “noted that the US Embassy in Indonesia is closely cooperating with the Indonesian government,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
At least 350,000 people abandoned their homes and evacuated to safer places. The National Disaster Management Coordinating Board (Bakornas PB) said the death toll of the floods that had hit Jakarta and its satellite towns of Bekasi in West Java and Tangerang in Banten since last week reached 80.
Of the 80 dead victims, 48 were resdeints of Jakarta, 19 of West Java and 13 of Banten provinces.
Material losses due to the floods were estimated at around Rp8 trillion. “Around Rp8 trillion in material losses were suffered in the Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi) region.
However, the real amount of losses could be higher, Lucky Eko Wuryanto, National Development Planning Board director for Urban, Spatial and Rural Affairs, said.
This year`s landslides weretriggered by abnormal rainfall.
Indonesia is experiencing a global warming-induced climate anomaly that is affecting farming and plantation activities and causing landslides in many regions.
“The condition is a result of global warming caused by rising temperature and sea level,” Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) Chief Secretary Andi Satya said at a meeting to improve the people`s understanding of meteorology, climatology, air quality and geophysics observatory networks recently.
Therefore, he added, the BMG`s services were related not only to climate, earthquakes and weather but also to sea and air transportation safety.
It was important for the people to have a good knowledge of weather, climate, air quality, earthquakes and transportation safety so as to know the present and future natural phenomena, he said. (*)
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