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Jakarta Post

Dozens killed as bad weather continues to loom across Indonesia

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 28, 2019   /   06:08 pm
Dozens killed as bad weather continues to loom across Indonesia People sit on a bench outside their home during a flood in Pekalongan, Central Java, on Sunday. Heavy rain the day before caused floods across the city. (Antara/Harviyan Perdana Putra)

Hydrometeorological disasters such as floods, landslides and strong winds have hit several areas across Indonesia. Dozens of people have been killed and thousands displaced in the last week.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warned that according to rainfall patterns in the last 20 years, January and February were the peak months for hydrometeorological disasters.

“The rainy season has begun in almost all regions in Indonesia, with a tendency for extreme rain,” BMKG spokesman Taufan Maulana told The Jakarta Post on Monday. “There are also other factors, such as tropical cyclones, problems with urban spatial planning and the government’s readiness to minimize the impact of extreme weather.”

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho earlier said deforestation and damage to watersheds had contributed to the increasing number of hydrometeorological disasters over the years.

The large areas deemed critical land, which the Environment and Forestry Ministry defines as land that has ecologically reduced function, was also a contributing factor.

The BNPB recorded that the worst hydrometeorological disaster in the past few weeks was in South Sulawesi, with at least 69 people killed and 6,700 others displaced by floods and landslides that hit 12 regencies and one city across the province last week. Of the deaths, 46 were in Gowa, 14 in Janeponto, four in Maros and one in the provincial capital city Makassar.

On his visit to the affected areas on Sunday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the degraded environment at Bawakaraeng Mountain in Gowa --  where the Jeneberang River begins and runs through many regions across the province, including Makassar -- increased the likelihood of floods and landslides.

"Besides the weather that we cannot control, the disasters were also caused by damage in the upstream area comprising the Bawakaraeng watershed," he said as quoted by Antara.

Kalla said people should refrain from converting land with woody plants to cultivate agricultural crops like corn.

In the disaster last week, some parts of Gowa were inundated after the Jeneberang River overflowed.

Heavy downpours in Central Java over the weekend also caused floods in Kendal and Batang regencies, as well as Pekalongan city, killing at least two children and affecting thousands of residents.

Rainwater flooded a number of schools in the three regions on Sunday, forcing some to close the next day.

On Sunday, strong winds and heavy rains also hit Lagoa village in North Jakarta and Pamekasan regency in East Java, with several buildings collapsing. No casualties were recorded.

In West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), torrential rain and strong winds also struck villages at the foot of Mount Rinjani, which is popular among climbers and tourists.

On Monday, authorities reported more than 4,000 people in four subdistricts in Gorontalo’s Boalemo regency were affected by floods. Dozens of houses reportedly were damaged in the disaster.

The BMKG forecast that extreme weather, strong winds and heavy rain could occur in 14 provinces in the next few days: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Bangka Belitung, Banten, Jakarta, Central Java, East Java, Bali, NTB, East Nusa Tenggara, Southeast Sulawesi and South Sulawesi.

The BMKG also warned of the potential for 2.5 to 4 meter high waves in areas across Indonesia.

“The public should be careful of heavy rain and strong winds that are likely to occur at the end of January. There is potential for floods, landslides, flash floods, fallen trees and slippery roads,” Taufan said. (ggq)