700 evacuated as strong winds thrash Gorontalo
Syamsul Huda M. Suhari
The Jakarta Post
Around 244 houses in five villages in Tolangohula district, Gorontalo regency, were damaged when strong winds and torrential rains hit the regency on Thursday at around 3 p.m. local time, forcing 717 residents to evacuate.
The five villages were Margo Mulyo, Bandasari, Makmur Abadi, Suka Makmur and Molohu.
“As many as 25 of the homes collapsed or were severely damaged, 67 others slightly damaged, while the rest were inundated by 30 centimeters of rainfall,” said Gorontalo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Abdul Bari Yahya.
The flood, triggered by overflowing irrigation canals, also engulfed at least 66 hectares of farmland across the five villages, located some 60 kilometers from provincial capital Gorontalo.
“The rice fields had just been harvested but the paddy stock, kept in residents’ homes, was damaged,” said Bari.
The natural occurrence also caused a Koran recital school to collapse and severely damaged an early childhood education center (PAUD).
Only two residents, who were injured due to falling debris, were reported as casualties of the natural phenomenon.
One of the injured residents, Poniran, 55, said that the strong winds lasted for up to an hour and when the wind increased in force and sent several items in his home crashing to the ground, he and his family rushed outside.
The worst-hit area was Margo Mulyo village, where the homes of 99 families were flooded, 14 homes severely damaged and 28 were left slightly damaged.
A wooden house owned by Samsuri, 70, was leveled to the ground and its roof was blown 15 meters away. Fortunately, Samsuri and his grandchild escaped with only minor injuries caused by falling debris.
The BPBD, assisted by members of the local Disaster Response Youth group, deployed support to the scene from Thursday evening to help residents. They are also operating a public kitchen at the district administrative office for the next two days.
The BPBD did not erect makeshift tents as evacuees preferred to stay with relatives spared from the disaster. However, residents, especially those who lost their homes, are immediate need of clothing because many left with only the clothes on their back.
According to Bari, most of the houses were categorized as modest homes built of timber and so were easily damaged.
On Friday morning, residents were seen foraging through what was left of their homes in search of salvageable items.
The BPBD will establish the material loss from the disaster in the area dominated by transmigrant families from Java.
Bari commented that the damaged homes would be restored with funds from the disaster mitigation budget.
“For this year, the BPBD is still equipped with Rp 200 million (US$22,000), from the provincial budget. Some of the money was used to handle previous disasters,” said Bari, adding that hopefully, the remaining funds would be adequate to rebuild the damaged homes.
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