Indonesia: Landslide disaster in Aceh Tenggara - Preliminary field report 19 Oct 2005

Situation Report
Originally published
At approximately 22:00, 18.10.05 (and later again at 02:00, 19.10.05) the villages of Titipasir, Simpang Semadam, Lawe Beringin Gayo and Semadamawal (Aceh Tenggara district) were hit by sudden landslides. This lethal mix of water, mud, rocks and trees swept suddenly through the villages, bringing instant death and destruction. The disaster area is approximately 20 km south from Kutacane along the Medan-Kutacane road.

Current Situation as of 14:00, 19.10.05 -- initial estimates.

  • 4 people confirmed dead (Lawe Beringin Gayo) -- this figure is expected to rise.
  • 1 confirmed missing person (Simpang Semadam).
  • Titipasir -- 6 houses destroyed
  • Simpang Semadam -- 100 houses destroyed
  • Lawe Beringin Gayo -- 50 houses destroyed
  • Semadamawal -- 100 houses destroyed.
  • 727 people displaced.
  • 500 displaced persons currently occupying the main sports stadium at Kutacane and approximately 100 are residing at the Kutacane airport.
An emergency First Aid posko has been established at the Kutacane Airport.

Access to the disaster area is restricted due to large amounts of mud and debris. Wading through the mud along the road is possible, although it is up to one meter deep in parts (Wellington-style boots are recommended). The main Medan-Kutacane road is impassable at this site but there is a detour -- via the airport - that is suitable for trucks.

These villages were completely inundated; many houses have disappeared completely and mud is at the roof level of some of those that remain. Many of the houses were instantly destroyed when hit by an unusually large amount of debris including logs, whole trees, and large stones. The immediate area suffers from chronic illegal logging and forest clearance; there were many illegally-felled logs amongst the debris. The village of Pasar Baru, although within the disaster zone, was spared due to its slightly higher elevation and intact forest cover.

At the time of our departure (14:00), only the Indonesian Red Cross was providing assistance. They were operating a makeshift clinic at the airport posko; however, their medical supplies were very limited. Most survivors rescued only a few of their belongings and many walked out empty handed! Domestic facilities are inadequate and poor sanitation poses an imminent threat.

Immediate Needs

Shelter is no longer required -- the tents supplied by LIF are more than enough. Clean water, toilets, cooking stoves with fuel, and clothing are still urgently needed. Additional medical supplies may also be required, as an assessment has not yet been completed.


Relief Assistance

The two most obvious and effective aid distribution points are the airport and the central sports stadium at Kutacane; these are the primary areas where the displaced people are gathering.

Aid Distribution to date

Two plane loads of supplies were delivered courtesy of LIF and Suzi Air (at 12:00 and 14:00):

  • Instant noodles -- approx 100 boxes.
  • Drinking Water -- approx 500 litres.
  • Bread rolls -- 15 boxes.
  • Rice -- 200 kilograms (20 x 10kg bags).
The Leuser International Foundation contributed two truck loads of emergency supplies; these trucks departed from Medan at approx 16:00 (E.T.A 00:00 -- 20.10.05) loaded with:
  • 336 Selter boxes (supplied by Rotary International Chelwood) -- each plastic container consists of 2 x tents (10 people), 1 x small kerosene stove, 4 x mattresses, 1 x sleeping bag, 1 x hand saw, 1 x hammer, 6 x plates, 1 x tape measure and 1 x rope (10m).
  • Sarongs (traditional Indonesian clothing, towel-like, multi-purpose) -- 100 pieces.
  • Rice -- 1 tonne.
  • Instant noodles -- 100 boxes.
  • Sugar -- 100 kg.
  • Salted Fish -- 50 kg.
  • Cooking oil -- 100 lt.
  • Biscuits -- 100 boxes.
  • Sweetened milk -- 100 cans (250ml each).
  • Jerry Cans -- 5
Three LIF employees are currently on the ground at Kutacane; they are undertaking an immediate needs assessment and are purchasing locally available supplies and distributing them, with instructions to make special considerations for the needs of women and children.


The airport at Kutacane (Alas Leuser) is open and operational.

The Kutacane-Medan road is impassable at the disaster site but detour routes are open. Coming from Medan, vehicles can make a left turn at either Desa Lawe Pakam or Desa Deski (just before Desa Simpang Semadam). From both of these turn-offs, vehicles will have to follow the bitumen road that passes by the airport. This road eventually returns to the Medan-Kutacane road at Kutalanglang (vehicles may choose to return to the main Medan-Kutacane road by taking one of the many roads that branch off to the right). From Kutacane to Medan, follow the above instructions in reverse (the last available detour can be taken at Desa Simpang Kebun Sere).

Useful Coordinates

Humanitarian Disaster Area

  • Northern Boundary: N.03=B0 24' 23.0" E.097=B0 53' 48.0".
  • Eastern Boundary: N.03=B0 23' 44.8" E.097=B0 53' 21.7".
  • Southern Boundary: N.03=B0 23' 53.0" E.097=B0 54' 08.0".
  • Western Boundary: No coordinates yet.
  • Central Point (Intersection at Simpang Semadam): N.03=B0 24' 03.0" E.097=B0 53' 55.0".
Coordinating Relief Efforts

The emergency response will be best served by a coordinated, needs based approach. The Leuser International Foundation has established a dedicated assistance team for the Kutacane landslides - our team will include a permanent presence on the ground (assessment

reports and direct assistance) and support staff (coordination, information and logistics) who will be based in our Medan office. LIF will be receiving regular up-dates on the situation from our field agents and our responses will be determined by these assessment reports. LIF will share information via regular reports on our website Please contact LIF (below) if you would like to receive email up-dates or are interested in assisting with our relief efforts.

Contact details

Leuser International Foundation
Jl. Bioteknologi No.2 Kampus USU, Medan 20155
Phone: +62 (0) 61 -- 821 68 00 Fax: +62 (0) 61 -- 821 68 08

Relief coordination

Susanna Wingard
+62 81 375 168 871


The three major factors contributing to the disaster appear to be:

1. The fragility of the landscape.

2. Extensive logging, deforestation, and forest conversion in the immediate catchment area.

3. Sustained heavy rainfall immediately prior to the landslides.

Due to the extremely steep gradients in the Leuser Ecosystem region, the area is naturally prone to events such as landslides. However, forest clearance has, in recent times, weakened the soil structure that helps prevent landslides from occurring. Although certainly exacerbated by the previously mentioned facts, recent heavy rains are also thought to be a major contributing factor. The unnatural abundance of abandoned timber in the area also appeared to have greatly increased both the scale and the intensity of the disaster. The final resulting tragedy was probably a combination of the aforementioned factors.

Future Directions

A dedicated LIF team will be investigating the cause/s of the tragedy; a final report will be issued as soon as the team has completed their investigation. In the meantime, LIF will continue to provide emergency assistance for the survivors and will look to assist in providing long-term sustainable development opportunities for the affected communities. By improving the quality of life for these villagers, it is hoped that land use practices will become more ecologically sound, therefore, reducing the likelihood of more landslides or other disasters reoccurring in that area.