The Jakarta Post
Floods have engulfed thousands of houses and hectares of farming land in Riau while drought continues to hit many areas in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).
The overflow from the bursting Batang Kuantan River in Kuantan Singingi regency in Riau has claimed the life of a toddler and swamped 4,552 homes and 2,901 hectares of paddy fields.
Based on the latest data gathered by the local social service office, the floods have engulfed houses in 80 villages and 10 districts, with the worst-hit areas reported to be Pangean and Kuantan Hilir Seberang districts, where 1,225 and 1,161 homes were inundated respectively.
In Benai district, 602 homes are recorded to have been swamped, in Inuman district 594, Kuantan Hilir 368, Kuantan Tengah 246, Kuantan Mudik 39 and Gunung Toar 111. The number of flood victims in Cerenti district is still being documented, while four homes are reported to have been engulfed by flood waters in Sentajo Jaya district.
Kuantan Singingi Social Services Office head Muharlius said that the Kuantan River had burst its banks due to high rainfall in upstream areas along the Riau-West Sumatra border over the past week.
The water levels in various regions varied between 50 centimeters and 100 cm. 'All villages that the Kuantan River passes through are flooded. Many of the public facilities have been engulfed by flood waters and people's daily activities have been disrupted for the past four days,' said Muharlius on Monday.
Apart from homes, the floods also swamped 2,901 hectares of newly-grown rice paddies. 'They are all at risk of crop failure. The relevant agencies are still waiting for the floods to subside so they can confirm the condition of the crops. They will immediately coordinate with the Riau provincial administration to ask for seedling assistance,' he said.
Apart from material loss, the flood claimed the life of a toddler named M. Nisam, 4, in Muaro Sentajo village, added Murharlius.
Nisam, son of Bambang and Rita, fell into a pool of water and was swept away by a swift current at around 12 noon as he was playing with two of his friends in a flooded rice field. Meanwhile, dozens of tons of relief aid, including medicine and rubber dinghies have been distributed to affected areas. The local administration also erected four evacuation posts and deployed disaster-response personnel to evacuate residents.
Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger has urged residents living in areas near the Kuantan River in Indragiri Hulu regency to raise their awareness.
'I received information that the flooded locations in the Kuantan River upstream area have subsided. Currently, a large volume of water is flowing downstream and the chance of this causing the Indragiri River to overflow in Indragiri Hulu is high,' said Edwar.
He added the Indragiri Hulu regency administration must take the necessary precautions, keeping in mind the huge extent of flooding in Kuantan Singingi. People must be alert to flash floods and the local administration must prepare alternative evacuation shelters as well as food aid before the flood waters arrive,' he said.
In stark contrast, rain has not fallen in a number of regions across NTT despite the arrival of the rainy season. The low rainfall has caused a number of areas to be at risk of harvest failure and subsequent food crisis.
'It has not yet rained in nearly all areas across NTT and it is already January. This year, NTT is at risk of harvest failure and food shortage,' NTT Vice Governor Benny A. Litelnoni told journalists in Kupang on Monday.
In anticipation of the harvest failure, Benny said that the provincial administration had coordinated with regency and city administrations to make an inventory of at risk areas.
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