Monday, December 26, 2011


         Jakarta, Dec 26, 2011 (ANTARA) - Thank God, this year Indonesia experienced fewer deadly natural disasters than in previous years like the 2004 devastating tsunami in Aceh, the powerful earthquakes in Padang and Mentawai, West Sumatra , in 2009 and 2010 respectively, the Wasior flood in Papua and Mount Merapi eruption in 2010.
       As a country located in the Pacific Ocean`s "Ring of Fire" of volcanoes and earthquakes, Indonesia is one of the world`s most disaster-prone countries.
       One of the worst disasters hitting Indonesia in modern history was the deadly tsunami which devastated Aceh Province and Nias Island (North Sumatra Province) on December 26, 2004, which killed around 200,000 people and rendered about one million others homeless.
     According to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), around 644 disasters happened in 2010 in which 1,711 people lost their lives throughout Indonesia.

For its disaster mitigation program in 2011, the BNPB had allocated Rp228 billion in funds, among other things for the mapping of disaster-prone areas in Indonesia, training for government officials and local people to raise their awareness about natural disasters and certification of around 10,000 volunteers.

"The BNPB`s budget for disaster mitigation and handling efforts in 2011 amounts to Rp795 billion plus overseas grants worth Rp17 billion, so it totals Rp812 billion. Of the Rp812 billion, Rp228 billion will be for our disaster mitigation program," BNPB Chairman Syamsul Maarif told the press in Jakarta on January 2011.

One in three of Indonesia`s 73,000 villages is prone to natural disasters, Syamsul Maarif said.

This year, until December 25, however, Indonesia had been relatively free from deadly disasters, except from mild to moderate earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and whirlwinds in different parts of the country.

Although Mount Merapi erupted in 2010, the volcano which is situated on the border between Yogyakarta and Central Java, still posed a secondary danger, namely cold lava that still haunted locals residing in river bank areas.

The 2,968-meter (9,738 feet) Mount Merapi erupted on October 26 until November 30, 2010 leaving 350 people dead and at least 350,000 others displaced.

The Vulcanology Technology Research and Development Agency (BPPTK) of Yogyakarta said that during the major eruptions, Mt Merapi emitted about 140 million cubic meters of volcanic materials which were spread into rivers whose upstream areas were located near the volcano.

The cold lava made its way down the mountain`s slopes through 15 rivers (Putih, Blongkeng, Pabelan, Woro, Gendol, Boyong, Krasak, Batang, Senowo, Trising, Opak, Bebeng, Kuning, Apu dan Lamat) causing them to overflow from time to time.

The danger of Mount Merapi`s cold lava flows could last longer than that of its eruptions, he said.

In June 2011, Vice President Boediono visited Yogyakarta in Central Java to inspect the conditions of villages hit by Mount Merapi eruptions last year as more than two thousand families were still living in shelters.

The process to reconstruct and rehabilitate the Mount Merapi area is expected to be finished in two to three years.

To help speed up the recovery, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta on July 5, 2011, signed Decree No 16 of 2011 on the formation of a team to coordinate post-Merapi reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Yogyakarta and Central Java.

The restoration, rehabilitation and reconstruction of everything material damaged or destroyed by Mt Merapi eruptions would cost Rp1.35 trillion, except for the damage done by the cold lava flows currently still threatening Magelang and Sleman, estimated at more than Rp1.69 trillion.

BNPB Chairman Syamsul Maarif said early this year that Mount Merapi`s eruptions caused material losses estimated at Rp7.1 trillion in Central Java and Yogyakarta.

"The losses were caused not only by damaged buildings but also by disrupted socio-economic activities, such as a decline in the number of hotel guests and flights at Adisucipto Airport," he said .

Indonesia has the world`s largest number of volcanoes, namely around 500, including 128 which are active and 65 of them are considered dangerous, according to Media Indonesia.

Currently, around 20 active volcanoes have been declared in standby or alert status. They include Mount Bromo in East Java, Mount Marapi in West Sumatra, Anak Krakatoa (Sunda strait), Papandayan (West ava), Slamet (Central Java), Semeru (East Java), Soputan (North Sulawesi), Lokon (North Sulawesi), Mount Dieng (Central Java), Gamalama (North Maluku), Tambora (West Nusa Tenggara), and Mount Batur (Bali)

Last July, Mount Lokon in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, erupted forcing over 4,500 people to take refuge in safer areas.

The major eruption caused forest fires around the volcano, according to Head of BNPB`s Data and Information Center Sutopo Purwo Nugroho in Jakarta, last July.

The Indonesian Red Cross had mobilized roughly 150 personnel to help the local people following the increased activities of the volcano. Luckily, there were nobody was injured or killed by the volcanic eruption.

Mostly mild earthquakes jolt Indonesia`s islands such as Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Papua, almost daily. However, there was hardly any major earthquake this year, except for a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that rattled Bali and environs last October 2011 and injured at least 46 people.

Because of the impact of the La Nina natural phenomenon, floods had been occurring in different parts of Indonesia since early this year, such as in Medan (North Sumatra), Pekalongan, Brebes, Trenggalek (Central Java), Sampang (East Java), Singkawang (West Kalimantan), Mamuju (West Sulawesi), Kutai Timur (East Kalimantan), Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi), Gorontalo (northern Sulawesi) , Aceh (northern Sumatra), Donggala (Central Sulawesi), and East Flores as well as Belu (East Nusa Tenggara - NTT)

In January 2011, flash floods forced more than 1,000 villagers of Waibalun, Larantuka, East Flores evacuate to higher grounds.

Twelve people were killed in floods and landslides that occurred in Pidie, Aceh, in March this year. The Aceh floods and landslides happened following incessant rains and forced more than 7,000 people in the district to seek refuge in safer places.

In Garut, West Java, flash floods and landslides killed 11 people, injured at least six others, and caused three others to go missing in May 2011.

Last November, flash floods, triggered by heavy rains killed four people and inundated hundreds of houses in six villages in Pesisir Selatan district, West Sumatra.

Besides claiming some lives, the floods also damaged rice fields and crops in some regions.

According to data from the Agriculture Ministry, floods had affected 62,686 hectares of paddy fields in the January-March 2011 period and 7,071 hectares of them could not be harvested.

The floods mostly affected rice fields in South Sulawesi province, reaching 14,391 hectares, followed by West Kalimantan province with 11,318 hectares, and West Java with 10,223 hectares.

The area of flooded rice fields in Central Java province reached 9,653 hectares, East Java province 6,500 hectares, North Sumatra province 2,329 hectares, South Kalimantan province 2,130 hectares and Lampung province 1,433 hectares.

Jakarta was also not free from floods. As heavy rains fell in the capital city in October 2011, the Pondok Labu area located in south Jakarta, was flooded up to a height of two meters, forcing residents to flee to higher ground. The Krukut river in Pondok Labu overflowed and inundated at least 239 houses.

The Indonesian Red Cross helped the local residents in the evacuation process and set up emergency tents to accommodate the flood victims.

Currently Jakarta is bracing for the possibility of floods happening in early 2012 on the same scale as the 2002 and 2007 deluges which were described as the biggest ever floods that had hit the capital city in terms of size and casualties.

With a population of around 10 million, Jakarta is basically prone to annual flooding every rainy season due among other things to a poor drainage system and lack of water catchment areas. Besides, Jakarta lies in a lowland with 43 lakes and 13 rivers.

In February 2007, floods had covered much of low-lying Jakarta and its suburban areas, killing around 85 people, forcing about 450,000 people to flee their homes, and causing nearly one billion US dollars worth of damage and losses.

This year`s rainy season in most parts of Indonesia began in October and will last until around March or April 2012. ***4***

(T.F001/A/F001/B003) 26-12-2011 17:27:43

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