Indonesia

Indonesia: Bahorok flood victims get houses after three years of living in camps

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Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Langkat

After living in barracks for almost three years, 325 of the 354 families displaced by the Bahorok flash flood in Langkat regency, North Sumatra, have started moving in to semipermanent homes.

Situated on a 14-hectare property owned by state plantation company PT Perkebunan Nusantara II, the state housing has few amenities, which has not endeared it to its new occupants.

Refugee Siti Nurahimah, 30, said that moving into a semipermanent structure with no electricity or running water was no substitute for a real home, even though the housing is located not far from their old neighborhood.

The assistant teacher said many of the flash flood victims who had been given the keys to houses were not satisfied, but had little choice but to accept them after living in the barracks for so long.

"We've suffered for long enough in the barracks. Now, we have houses, but we can't do much without clean water and electricity," she told The Jakarta Post.

She hoped the government would find them permanent homes.

Not all the refugees, however, have found fault in the housing project.

Many said they were grateful to have somewhere to live after the November 2003 Bahorok flash flood, which killed around 180 people and left 80 others missing, swept away their houses along the riverbank.

"Thank God we now have houses, this is a real blessing," said one of the victims, Hasan Basri, 66.

Bahorok Jaya district head Jaya Sitepu said the moving process started a week ago.

A lottery was used to decide which of the families would be getting new homes.

Twenty-nine families missed out, Jaya said, but temporary homes will be provided for them as soon as possible.

Langkat Public Works Office head Surya Djahisa confirmed the refugees were without power or running water but said it was just a matter of time because the facilities were there.

He said the office and its partners were working hard to get the water and electricity services connected.

Surya said the Langkat administration was also putting in supporting facilities, such as the construction of two hanging bridges over Bahorok River, embankments and an irrigation ditch.

"We're committed to building the displaced people's houses, which are located in Lawang hill tourist area, as well as we can," Surya said, expressing hope the area's economy would bounce back once the tourist attractions there were rebuilt.