Indonesia: Thousands of houses inundated in floods

News and Press Release
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Nurni Sulaiman and Jon Afrizal , The Jakarta Post , Samarinda, Jambi

Thousands of houses and hundreds of hectares of rice paddies have been inundated in floods in Samarinda and Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan and Jambi, following the past few days of heavy downpours in the regions.

In East Kalimantan, heavy rain since Friday submerged thousands of houses in North Samarinda and Samarinda Ilir districts and hundreds of others in Purwajaya subdistrict, Loa Janan district, Kutai Kartanegara regency over the weekend.

North Samarinda district head Marnabas said the heavy downpours had increased the water debit in the Benanga dam, Lempake, from 30 cubic centimeters to 65 cubic centimeters per second.

The heavy rains also caused the Mahakam River and its tributary Karang Mumus River to overflow, leading to floods along their riverbanks.

The worst flood, with a depth of 80 centimeters, occurred in Gunung Lingai subdistrict, North Samarinda, whose downtown areas were inundated in waters up to 50 centimeters deep.

"I could not send my elementary school son, Chiqo, to school because our motorbike could not pass through the street in front of our house," said Anas, a housewife from Gunung Lingai.

Popi, from Sempaja, said the flood was the worst she had ever experienced in the area. The flood has inundated the street in front of the Madya Sempaja Stadium, up to 50 centimeters deep, disturbing the traffic in the region.

Marnabas expressed hope the heavy downpour would stop and that the floods would not extend to wider areas.

"We are working with the Social Agency to prepare for the boats and provide logistic supplies to survivors."

Many, including head of the Ministry of Environment's Kalimantan Regional Office B. Widodo Sambodo, have blamed the conversion of green regions into housing complexes or mining sites for the frequent floods in the region.

Meanwhile in Jambi, a couple of days of heavy rains have caused floods in a number of areas on Friday, destroying not just housing complexes and education facilities, but also hundreds of hectares of rice fields in eight subdistricts in Sumay district, Tebo regency.

The eight subdistricts include Jati Belarik, Teluk Langkap, Tambun Arang, Punti Kalo, Lebak Bungur, Teluk Singkawang, Teriti and Tuo Sumay.

Farmers expressed sorrow because many of the rice paddies were almost due for harvest, as most of them were already three months old.

"There is nothing we can do. I surely will not be able to harvest the rice that we have planted and nurtured with all our hearts and efforts," said Siti Fatimah, fromTeluk Langkap subdistrict.

Siti said most of the farmers in her subdistrict head never imagined the floods would be so destructive.

She also expressed disappointment that none of the apparatus from the local administrations had yet visited or witnessed what they had been experiencing, much less provided them with emergency aids.

Ali, from Teluk Singkawan subdistrict, echoed her disappointment.

"The floods came just two weeks prior to the harvest time. All we can do is just salvage what we can harvest from the fields."

Chairman of Karya Maju farmers group of Kampung Baru village, Teriti, Raden Hasan, said only about 30 percent of the rice plantations in his region could be harvested. The rest 70 percent completely experienced harvest failure.

"We expect the local administrations to pay attention to us. No one expected the disaster," Ali said.