By Ahmad Husein, IFRC
Torrential rains during the first week of February have caused severe flooding in eight provinces in Indonesia, heavily affecting Aceh, North and West Sumatra, Riau and Bangka Belitung. The floods isolated more than 89,000 people and forced them to evacuate to safer areas. The provinces of West Sumatra, Riau and Bangka Belitung have announced a state of emergency, while some districts in Purworejo in Central Java were hit by landslides. A 12 metre-high hill collapsed and buried two houses, killing seven people. It is estimated that around 9,450 people have been affected by the floods in West Sumatra, while landslides in the district of Solok Selatan left five people dead and one missing.
In response to the emergency, the Indonesian Red Cross Society (Palang Merah Indonesia) deployed 200 volunteers to provide first aid, medical services, and to evacuate people in the affected areas. At the peak of the flooding, the Red Cross distributed relief items including 100 pairs of boots, 400 family kits and 300 tarpaulins in West Sumatra.
“The floodwater rose up to three metres high, inundating five sub-districts in Pangkal Pinang City and forcing 4,800 people to leave their homes,” said Wahyono, an Indonesian Red Cross volunteer.
Hundreds of local villagers insisted on staying on the second floor of their houses instead of evacuating even as the floods disrupted transportation lines and cut off power and water supplies. Overflowing rivers have swamped at least 674 houses, covered hundreds of hectares of farmland and causing damage to five bridges. The local Red Cross Chapter in Binjai City, North Sumatra, worked with local authorities to evacuate 3,000 people to shelters provided by the government. Meanwhile in Jakarta, the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management estimated that at least 17 spots in the capital city have been inundated.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting the response of the Indonesian Red Cross, utilizing a contribution of 135,000 Swiss Francs (around 200,000 Australian Dollars) from the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
“Thanks to funding we have obtained from the Australian Government, Palang Merah Indonesia will be able to provide immediate assistance to 5,000 people, especially women, children and the elderly in eight districts in Aceh, West Sumatra and Bangka Belitung provinces,” said Giorgio Ferrario, Head of the IFRC in Indonesia.
The overall strategy will cover health services through a mobile clinic, including first aid services, health promotion and psychosocial support. The Red Cross also plans to provide clean water to the most affected areas and distribute relief items and kits for cleaning contaminated wells. Based on the information collected by assessment teams, the Red Cross is also considering a cash transfer programme for the affected communities, which will allow them to purchase items they need directly from local markets.