Wed, 29 Nov 2000

Food supply to flood hit areas disrupted

PADANG, West Sumatra (JP): Supplies of food and medicines to regencies devastated by floods and landslides in West Sumatra were being obstructed as the roads leading to the affected areas had been cut, while other alternative routes had been washed away due to the incessant rain, governor Zainal Bakar said here on Tuesday.

"We've been trying to provide emergency aid as far as we can. Aid first then rehabilitation," he said, adding that evacuations were continuing, especially in the disaster-hit regencies, including 50 Kota, Pasaman, Agam, Pesisir Selatan and Tanah Datar, and the mayoralties of Solok, Padang and Pariaman.

Reports said that at least 75,000 evacuees in these mayoralties and regencies had run out of food, medicines and clothes.

Most of the evacuees are being accommodated in tents, mosques and school buildings.

According to Zainal, the provincial administration was responsible for the disaster, meaning that compensation would be made available to those whose relatives were killed, and those who had lost their rice crops and belongings.

Field reports said that the death toll had reached 74, while according to data gathered by the National Search and Rescue Agency from eight regencies in West Sumatra, 43 dead bodies had been recovered, 71 persons declared missing and 115 others injured.

"The death toll may increase as we still have difficulties in reaching the locations of the landslides in remote areas. Usually, a victim can survive for three days or so but in a case like this, we cannot predict that," Search and Rescue (SAR) chief Rear Adm. Setio Rahardjo said.

Setio added that 11 additional SAR personnel plus one helicopter and one jeep were being dispatched to West Sumatra to help cope with the calamity.

"Currently we have only 13 personnel," Setio told The Jakarta Post.

Most parts of West Sumatra have been experiencing power blackouts since one of the towers at a hydroelectric power station in Singkarak collapsed due to the storms and torrential rain.

West Sumatra administration spokesman Yuen Karnova estimated that the catastrophe had caused at least Rp 300 billion in losses.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in a written statement said that the victims of the flooding and landslides in Sumatra would receive emergency assistance amounting to US$25,000 from the U.S. Government.

To show its seriousness in tackling the crisis, the government is to send Minister of Health Achmad Sujudi, Minister of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure Erna Witoelar, a number of SAR teams as well as members of the National Disaster Management Board (Bakornas), to the disaster-hit areas of West Sumatra, North Sumatra and Aceh on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, most areas in the restive province of Aceh were still crippled on Tuesday, despite the fact that the floods were gradually receding.

In many areas the electricity supply and telephone service was still disrupted, and offices were closed as employees were busy cleaning out the mud from their homes.

Reports said that at least 16 people had died in the floods, said to be the biggest in the history of Aceh.

"Food supplies are returning to normal," a local said.

In the regency of Pidie, the floods have destroyed hectares of shrimp ponds and thousands of residents' houses.

"In the regency of Pidie alone, the floods have caused billions of rupiah in losses. Most of the 23 districts have been inundated," Husen Abu Bakar, the regency's spokesman, told the Post.

Residents said the floods were the biggest ever in the regency. "In previous floods, the water reached only 30 centimeters, and receded within hours. Now we have more than two meters and the floods have lasted for days," Husen said.

Torrential rain and high tides were blamed for the floods.

Six villages in the Jienjien area, where the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)'s headquarters is located, are now totally isolated, residents said. "No access to and from Jienjien," a local, who asked not to be identified, said.

In the regency of Dairi, North Sumatra, rescue workers recovered eight bodies from the site of a landslide on Tuesday, but dozens of others were believed to be still buried in the mud.

Dairi was isolated as all routes had been paralyzed due to landslides, leaving the only route still open to Medan being that through Siantar and Siborong-borong, Muharram Sinaga, an official at the local disaster post, said.

"We are worried about food supplies and it's quite difficult to construct alternative routes with the rain still falling. The water keeps washing away the tracks," he said. (team)