Thousands forced to live in tents as floods hit 11 districts in North Sumatra

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By Apriadi Gunawan

Floodwaters inundated at least 11 districts across Batubara regency in North Sumatra over the weekend following heavy rains that hit the region in the past week, leaving about 1,087 houses flooded and thousands of people stranded in evacuation sites.

The Batubara Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) said high-intensity rainfall had struck the regency for at least the past seven days, causing the rivers to overflow and flood residents’ houses.

Among the affected areas were the districts of Air Putih, Datuk Limapuluh, Nibung Habungs, Sei Suka and Talawi.

Puting beliung (small tornadoes) also reportedly hit residential areas in Kuala Indah village of Air Putih district, damaging a number of houses, BPBD Batubara head Anwardi said.

The BPBD in coordination with relevant local agencies has set up emergency tents for thousands of the affected residents. It has also disbursed some aid, including staple foods, to the evacuees.

"Thousands of the affected residents will stay in the emergency tents until the floodwaters recede," Anwardi said on Monday, adding that the flooding had also inundated a number of schools.

Komeng, 55, a resident of Datuk Limapuluh district, said on Monday that the conditions were better now than they had been in the last two days, but the floodwaters still inundated their houses.

“We are still staying at evacuation sites because we cannot yet return home, the water in our houses is still thigh high,” Komeng told The Jakarta Post.

He hoped the floodwaters would soon recede and people could return to their normal lives. "The floods have paralyzed our activities," he added.

The Medan chapter of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in North Sumatra said the rainy season in the province this year was scheduled to last from October until December, with varied intensity ─ from normal to above normal.

In October, downpours are expected to hit the peak in, among other places, the cities and regencies of Langkat, Deli Serdang, Medan, Serdang Bedagai, Binjai, Tebing Tinggi, Simalungun and Asahan.

The peak of the rainy season will hit the northern part of Karo, Dairi, Samosir and the eastern part of Humbang Hasundutan, among other places, in November. The peak in December is projected to occur in Toba Samosir, some parts of Asahan and Tapanuli Selatan ─ to name a few. (vny)