Central Sulawesi hit by major flooding

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Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post, Palu, Central Sulawesi | Archipelago | Mon, August 27 2012, 6:08 AM

The province of Central Sulawesi has been struck by a second natural disaster in the space of a week. After being hit by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake in Sigi regency, severe flooding has now inundated Parigi Moutong regency and the city of Palu.

Three people died on Saturday after flash flooding struck Parigi Moutong regency, an official said.

Parigi Moutong Regent Samsurizal Tombolotutu told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the disaster had swept away 26 houses in Lemusa village and destroyed dozens of other houses and hectares of paddy fields. Six heads of cattle have also been reported missing.

The flooding forced 45 families in Boyantongo to be evacuated. Six houses in the village were reportedly swept away by the flood, while nearly 100 houses were damaged.

“The figures are liable to rise ... that’s the temporary data we have at the moment,” the regent said, adding that the residents affected by the flood had been evacuated to a safer area.

In total, more than 10 villages have been affected by the flooding. One bridge was damaged, cutting off the Trans-Sulawesi highway linking Banggai, Morowali and Poso to Palu. The line of deserted vehicles stranded due the disaster was reported to have reached 5 kilometers.

In Palu, two people who worked at a traditional gold mine in Poboya subdistrict, East Palu, were reportedly drowned after being swept away by the flood and their homes flattened by the force of the water. In Talise and Besusu Timur subdistricts, three houses situated on a river embankment were swept away.

Houses along Jl. Tinombala in Besusu Timur subdistrict were submerged by mud, forcing 24 families to flee to the nearby Nurul Istiqomah Mosque.

Head of the Palu chapter of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, Rahmat Kawaroe, said on Sunday that the flooding in Palu had been caused primarily by the destruction of local forests due to excessive gold mining by local residents.

“The area functions as a water catchment area for Palu city. Now, however, due to over-exploitation by the gold miners, Palu residents will experience flooding whenever it rains,” he said.

Separately, victims of last week’s earthquake, which devastated Lindu district in Sigi regency, were in dire need of blankets as the area has been continually battered by heavy rainfall, according to Karno Buamusu, head of Lindu district. “They are in need of assistance, especially blankets,” he said.

Karno said the blankets were needed to enable the victims, who are temporarily residing in tents, to warm themselves during the night.

Lindu district was the hardest-hit area after the earthquake took place on Aug. 18.

Up to 500 houses in Lindu district were damaged, while 6,000 people from five villages — Anca, Kanawu, Langko, Puro’o and Tomado — were evacuated to safer areas.

Tomado was the most devastated village, with nearly 80 percent of its houses being damaged. Six people were killed in the earthquake, Karno said.