Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Government gives Rp 3m in aid to West Sumatra

PADANG, West Sumatra (JP): On behalf of the central government, Minister of Settlement and Regional Infrastructure Erna Witoelar handed over on Wednesday Rp 3 billion to the West Sumatra administration for the repair and rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by recent floods and landslides.

Erna said during her visit to the province that the government had initially allotted only Rp 900 million, "but seeing the real situation here, we decided to increase the amount to Rp 3 billion."

She said the money was set aside from her office's money allocated in the 2000 state budget.

Erna, accompanied by Minister of Health and Social Welfare Ahmad Sujudi and a number of members of the National Disaster Management Board (Bakornas), was on a three-day visit to the disaster-hit areas of West Sumatra, North Sumatra and Aceh.

Together with Erna, representatives of the Minang (West Sumatra) community in Jakarta also donated 10 tons of rice to the families, in the disaster affected areas. Bakornas provided 40 tons of rice and Rp 50 million cash, while the National Social Coordination Board handed over 100 tons of rice and Rp 50 million cash.

As of Wednesday 74 bodies have been recovered and 41 people reported missing, believed to be buried under the mud and debris.

The villages of Talawi in Pesisir Selatan, Malalo in Tanah Datar regency and Bukitganting in Pasaman regency were the hardest hit areas.

However, the search for bodies in Pasaman was halted on Wednesday due to bad weather, while the SAR teams found it difficult to reach the devastated area.

West Sumatra administration spokesman Yuen Karnova said that the search for more victims might be stopped in all areas due to bad weather.

Locals said that arbitrary deforestation had caused the disasters, citing that floods had never occurred before in the regency of Pasaman.

However, a geologist said that West Sumatra was the second most vulnerable area to landslides in Indonesia after West Java. The third is Central Java.

The head of the Natural Disaster Section at the Directorate of Environmental Geology, Sutikno said on Tuesday that Pasaman and Lima Puluh Kota regencies and the hilly areas leading to Bukittinggi were all prone to landslides.

"We have studied these areas a long time ago and have sent the result of our survey to local administrations some years ago in order that they take necessary preventive actions. The local administrations seem to be unaware of our reports."

"Unfortunately, the victims are mostly poor villagers, who receive little information about the landslides."

"Such lack of knowledge has been demonstrated by most of the local administrations. They usually fail to disseminate reports on the danger of landslides and other kinds of natural disasters."

Most of the landslides in Indonesia are caused by volcanic sedimentation which causes the formation of steep valleys and weak structure of rocks, said Sutikno.

"Annually there are between 56 and 88 landslides occurring in Indonesia with a total of between 34 and 200 victims."

Other areas

In Banda Aceh, the newly installed Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh said that a special investigation team had been working to find out the number of victims from the floods. The latest death toll reached 16, and 25 people were reported missing.

Puteh said that the investigation team found it difficult to work in the regencies of Bireuen, North Aceh and Singkil where until Wednesday the water had yet to recede.

In many other flood-hit areas, flood water had receded, however, telephone lines and electricity supply were still disrupted on Wednesday.

The floods, dubbed the worst in (Aceh) history, also destroyed several bridges and cut off major streets. Intercity transportation had not yet returned to normal, with only a few public minibuses starting to operate on alternative routes.

Separately, in the East Kalimantan capital of Samarinda, thousands of houses were inundated by water from the rivers of Karang Mumus and Mahakam following heavy downpour over the last three days. Water levels reached two meters high in some areas, Antara reported on Wednesday.

While in Jambi, three people were killed by the recent flood which also destroyed more than 200 buildings, including houses, school buildings and mosques in Kerinci regency. Torrential rains were blamed for the calamity.

Kerinci Regent Fauzi Si'in said the three areas most severely hit by the floods were Gunung Kerinci, Hamparan Rawang and Keliling Danau districts.

The regent estimated that the disaster had caused at least Rp 66 billion in material losses.

Records indicated that the mudslide and flood in Jambi also destroyed at least 23 bridges and obstructed roads, including the provincial road, linking Kerinci regency to West Sumatra. (28/50/lup/sur)