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Jakarta Post

Riau declares state of emergency as disasters affect over 62,000, killing six

  • Rizal Harahap

    The Jakarta Post

Pekanbaru, Riau   /   Fri, December 20, 2019   /   07:57 pm
Riau declares state of emergency as disasters affect over 62,000, killing six A local resident and officials deal with a severe flood in Rokan Hulu regency, Riau, on Nov. 15, 2016. (Courtesy of BPBD Rokan Hulu/File)

The Riau administration declared a state of emergency on Friday after water inundated hundreds of villages in six of the province’s regencies, affecting more than 62,000 residents in the latest among recent disasters that have killed at least six people.

Riau Secretary Yan Prana Jaya Indra Rasyid said the status was enforced to prepare for a possible worst-case scenario due to the disaster, which occurred after waters overflowed from four of the province’s large rivers.

The emergency status applies for 11 days from Dec. 20 until 30.

“With the state of emergency, the regional administration could no longer cite financial difficulties in disaster-handling measures because the central government will provide support through the National Mitigation Agency [BNPB],” Yan said.

As of Friday, the overflowing waters from Riau’s Kampak, Siak, Rokan and Indragiri rivers inundated at least 216 villages in 43 districts in the regencies of Rokan Hulu, Kampar, Rokan Hilir, Pelalawan, Kuantan Singingi and Indragiri Hulu.

As many as 25,133 households comprising 62,630 people in the six regencies were affected by floods, which inundated 8,798 houses, 11 kindergartens, 47 elementary schools, 19 junior high schools and 17 senior high schools, according to Riau administration data.

The Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency recorded six casualties to date in floods and landslides that had occurred over several weeks.

Two people were killed after being trapped in a landslide and three died after being washed away by floods in Rokan Hulu, while another one died after drowning in a flood in Kuantan Singigi.

Some affected regencies reportedly declared states of emergency days before the provincial administration did on Friday.

“We have set up a number of temporary shelters and field kitchens in several areas,” Yan said.

While risks of forest fires threaten the province during the dry season, Riau is prone to floods and landslides during the rainy season. Severe floods could hit the province twice a year, he said.

"Floods usually occur at the beginning and the end of the year. The main reason behind [the disaster] is deforestation; there are fewer and fewer trees that can absorb the rainwater,” he said, “The water flows straight to the river and overflows into residential areas.”

In urban areas, a lack of drainage systems has exacerbated flooding problems. Yan noted that, in some parts, systems were developed without Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal).

Yan therefore made a call for Riau residents to immediately inform local authorities when their area gets hit by a flood so that disaster mitigation personnel and aid could be deployed immediately.

Meanwhile, BNPB director of equipment Rustian said the Riau provincial administration had made the correct decision by declaring state of emergency.

"The status gives legal protection for transfers of funds from the BNPB to help flood and landslide victims in the province," he said.

Even though the emergency fund has been put on standby for emergency use, Rustian said local authorities should not save their resources for bigger disasters.

"They should solve the [floods] problem from its roots and keep looking for the best and most sustainable solutions for the future," he said.

Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) data and information head Marzuki predicted that rainfall would continue to hit the province until January, most likely occurring every morning and night.

"Rain will pour all over the province until the end of December. The intensity will decrease in January, particularly in the northern part of Riau,” he said, adding the potential of floods disrupting New Year’s Eve celebrations was slim. (vla)