Tue, 14 May 2002

Wajo flood recedes as death toll rises to six

Jupriadi Asmaradhana, The Jakarta Post, Makassar

Floods that hit nine of the 14 districts of Wajo regency, 400 kilometers north of Makassar, South Sulawesi, receded on Monday, but thousands of flood victims have opted to stay in the makeshift shelters instead of returning home.

Secretary of Wajo regency Djamaluddin Santo said floods in most of the worst affected districts, such as Belawa, Tempe, Pammana, Sitolo and Sabbang Paru, had subsided to about 60 centimeters from between one meter and five meters at the height of the crisis.

The Trans-Sulawesi road passing Bone, Soppeng and Wajo, was reopened after it was closed for several days, he said.

Djamaluddin said the floods had claimed six lives and destroyed a number of school buildings, public health centers and rice fields.

"Two victims were killed in landslides, while another four were swept away by floods in a number of districts in Wajo," Jamaluddin told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Two were killed in Belawa, two in Pammana and another two in Pitumpanua districts.

The most recent victim was an elementary school student, Umar, 12, whose body was found on Sunday.

At least four people were killed when floods and a landslide devastated residential areas in Wajo regency following a heavy rainfall, which started on Thursday.

According to Djamaluddin, the floods were the worst in Wajo's history and caused material losses estimated at Rp 40 billion.

"We have not finished calculating the damage, but an early estimate suggests that total losses could reach Rp 40 billion," he said.

Flood victims have received medicine and food, mainly from the Wajo administration.

Meanwhile, floods that have plagued two villages in Baruga district, Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi for the past week are finally subsiding, but victims are choosing to stay in the makeshift shelters out of fear of further flooding because of threatening skies.

Baruga district chief Rivai Lamuse said on Monday that 90 residences affected by the floods were now dry.

Many flood victims who returned home on Sunday to clean up were reluctant to stay overnight, Rivai said.

At least 175 families were forced to flee their homes last Monday when Wanggu river, which divides the provincial capital of Kendari, overflowed and inundated residences.

There were no reports of casualties from the floods there.

Antara reported on Monday that the Konaweha and Lahumbuti rivers in Kendari had also overflowed, inundating at least 58 villages in eight districts of Kendari regency. In some districts, floods reached two meters.

Districts affected by the floods include Wawotobi, Pondidaha, Lasolo, Asera, Lambuya, Lainea Tinanggea and Moramo. Those most affected were Lainea and Wawotobi, in which hundreds of hectares of rice fields with crops ready to harvest, were still inundated.

In Kolaka regency, floods hit two districts, destroying hundreds of hectares of rice fields and a cacao plantation while innundating a number of residential areas.