Mon, 24 Feb 2003

Floods submerge crops, villages as heavy rain affects regions

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The torrential rains that have struck several parts of the country over the past few days have given rise to widespread floods that have submerged crops and homes.

In Belu, Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara, at least 576 hectares of corn were destroyed by the floods, prompting the local administration to promise it would supply farmers with replacement seeds.

Meanwhile, in Batanghari, Jambi, about 50 hectares of ready-to-harvest crops were submerged by floodwaters that also inundated six villages, forcing 3,000 people to flee their homes.

The six villages were Lopak Aur, Betung, Ture, Selat, Lubuk Ruso and Senaning. No casualties have been reported so far.

The head of the agriculture office in Atambua, Frans Paremme, said on Saturday that at least 576 hectares of corn in South Belu had been flooded, with only 50 hectares still being capable of being harvested.

"The crops have not only been submerged, but have also been attacked by disease," Frans was quoted by Antara as saying Saturday.

He gave assurances, however, that the government had already procured corn seeds for planting during the next planting season in March or April.

Frans said the local government had set up disaster posts in a number of districts to prepare for further flooding. At least 25 personnel from the Belu agriculture office had been assigned to these disaster posts.

In Jambi, Governor Zulkifli Nurdin visited a number of villages located in the Batanghari river valley to hand over emergency food assistance to affected families.

Accompanied by provincial secretary Chalik Saleh, Zulkifli visited Selat village in Pemayung district, Batanghari, some 60 kilometers from Jambi, where he urged local people to remain on the alert for future floods.

"We appeal to the public, especially parents, to take care of their children when the river bursts its banks," the governor was quoted by Antara as saying.

He also urged local village officials to set up flood posts to report flooding incidents to regents and the governor.

The Batangsari river burst its banks on Friday, inundating at least 30 villages.

Local resident Mislan, 45, said flooding regularly hit the villages located in the Batangsari river valley.

"Usually, we don't plant rice during the rainy season, but some farmers do," said Mislan, adding that those who did had suffered huge financial losses.

He said major floods, like those that had occurred this year, usually took place every four of five years.

"Well, sometimes we miscalculate. We had big floods last year but this year another big flood has hit the villages," said Mislan, adding that the floods had destroyed corn crops all along the river.