Four students buried in landslides, one dies

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Yemris Fointuna and Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, Kupang/Mataram | Tue, 01/10/2012 11:25 PM

A landslide triggered by incessant rainfall in East Nusa Tenggara over the last few days buried four elementary school students when they were playing in East Sumba regency.

One of the four victims, identified as Saputera Umbu Borang, 9, a student of state-run Papindu elementary school SD Inpres in Kambera district, died at the scene. Three of his friends were unearthed but are in critical condition due to serious injures and broken bones.

Local residents said the four children were found buried under mud, wood, stones and other debris. “They were swept more than 10 meters away. The four children were found at a depth of three to five meters,” Yulius Praing, one of the residents, said on Monday.

The head of the El Tari office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Kupang, Syaiful Hadi, urged residents to exercise caution during the bad weather.

“The intensity of rainfall in parts of NTT is quite high and is accompanied by strong winds and thunderbolts,” Syaiful said, adding that the bad weather also caused high waves that could threaten vessel safety.

High waves, for example, had started to hit the southern part of the province, while areas prone to floods and landslides included Timor, Flores and Sumba islands.

In Belu and Timor Tengah Selatan regencies, major flooding caused the Benenain River to overflow, thereby inundating hundreds of hectares of rice fields.

Residents from eight villages in the areas were forced to evacuate.

Meanwhile, heavy downpours and high tides from Saturday to Sunday evening had prevented hundreds of fishermen on Ampenan seashore, Mataram, from going to sea.

“We’ve been unable to go fishing for two days due to the strong winds and high tides. Fish are abundant, but the risk is very high. The boats can be broken into pieces, which would cause big losses,” said Darsiah, one of the fishermen.

According to Darsiah, during such bad weather, fishermen could use their fishing rods on the beach, but their catches would only meet their daily needs. Such a condition, he said, could persist for the next two months.

“This is very difficult for me as I have more than two children attending school. Besides the obligation to feed them, I have to provide their other daily needs like soap and shampoo,” Darsiah said.

“We hope the government will be responsive to our condition by giving assistance to fishermen during the bad weather,” he said.

Other fishermen along Pondok Perasi Beach in Mataram, Meninting in West Lombok and other locations on Lombok Island are experiencing problems similar to Darsiah’s.

Many fishermen are spending their time during the bad weather to repair and maintain their fishing nets and boats.

The BMKG Mataram office has issued warnings for both fishermen and small boat operators to beware of the rapid changes in weather.

“We’ve issued a warning since Monday morning, especially for fishermen and small boat operators not to go to sea,” said I Gede Sudika Pratama, an officer of BMKG Mataram.

“This bad weather will likely continue for the next five days,” he said, adding that the strong winds would spark waves as high as 3.5 meters.