Wild weather delays Sunda Strait ferries, forces power cuts in NTB

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Oyos Saroso H.N., The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung

Four-meter-high waves disrupted ferry service across the Sunda Strait between Bakauheni Port in Lampung and Merak Port in Banten on Tuesday.

Long lines of buses and trucks were seen snaking outside Bakauheni Port, due to delays which began on Monday evening. Several privately owned vehicles were also parked at the port as owners waited for the seas to calm, although some ferries were still operational.

Service from Merak was halted on Monday night, even as ferries continued to depart from Bakauheni, albeit with delays attributed to a lack of suitable ferries.

Only 16 of the 25 ferries that usually plied the Sunda Strait between Bakauheni and Merak route were available for service. “Only the large vessels were operated,” Bakauheni Port administrator Syamsul Rizal said on Tuesday.

Syamsul said that the port did not suspend service as captains could still maintain a speed of about 20 kilometers per hour and wave heights were less than 3 meters. “On Sunday evening, waves reached up to 3 meters and endangered the safety of passengers,” Syamsul said.

The operational manager of PT Indonesia Ferry for Bakauheni Port, Heru Purwanto, said that rough weather and high seas had created ducking difficulties that led to increased travel time between Bakauheni and Merak.

“During normal conditions, the Bakauheni-Merak trip takes around 2.5 hours, but it takes 4 hours now due to the huge waves,” Heru said.

One truck driver who usually hauls basic necessities from Java to Sumatra said he had to wait in line for 24 hours to cross from Merak to Lampung.

“During the trip many passengers seemed to be afraid that the ship was rocking due to very strong and huge waves,” Parwoto, 32, of Sekayu, South Sumatra, said.

In a separate weather-related fallout, state-run power company PLN has imposed rolling blackouts for the last five days in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) and Lombok Island, as residents have suffered under additional, unplanned service outages.

The rolling blackouts often take place from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. and from 10:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. local time.

PLN said that the planned blackouts were needed to protect power lines and stations from the extreme weather.

“Blackouts have often taken place in the past five days, apparently due to unfriendly weather. Besides disrupting the network, we have also imposed power cuts for the sake of the safety of the power generating stations,” PLN’s NTB technical manager, Anang Widjajanto, said on Tuesday.

Anang added that rain and strong winds over the past week had downed 23 power poles in West and Central Lombok, while two power transformers were damaged by fallen trees in Mataram.

“We have to impose blackouts during the repairs. We hope the public can understand,” he said.

Meanwhile, West Java was buffeted by winds reaching a speed of 25 kilometers per hour on Tuesday.

Forecasters at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geology Agency’s (BMKG) weather station in Bandung, West Java, urged residents to be on the alert for storms.

BMKG meteorologist Susiana said the station had recorded strong winds for the last several days, which she attributed to a low pressure system off of the southern coast of West Java.

The system also triggered waves along the coast with heights ranging as high as 6 meters.

“Everyone on land and at sea must be alert for the dangers of low pressure, despite reports of insignificant damage,” Susiana told reporters in Bandung on Tuesday.

Seven residents were injured after being hit by fallen trees and roofs blown away by the wind.

Panca Nugraha contributed to this article from Mataram, while Yuli Tri Suwarni reported from Bandung.