41 People Die as Flash Floods, Landslides, Earthquake and Cyclones Affect Life in Indonesia
By: TWC India Edit Team
Back-to-back disasters have been affecting millions of people in Indonesia with a heightened frequency in the last few years. In the latest episode, flash floods and landslides hit villages in Adonara Island in eastern Indonesia killing at least 41 people, while several people reportedly remain missing.
The Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), had earlier warned of an increased ‘multiple disaster risks’ in the first few months of 2021 due to increased rainfall intensity and higher potential for seismicity. More than 300 disasters—mainly flash floods—have reportedly affected different parts of Indonesia so far in 2021.
Flash floods kill dozens
Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency, said heavy rainfall since Saturday caused the flooding that hit East Flores district of East Nusa Tenggara province at 1 a.m. on Sunday, DPA news agency reported. Dozens of houses were buried by mud in Lamanele village, while in Waiburak village, floods swept away villagers' homes and caused a bridge to collapse.
Heavy rains and overflowing water have drowned people's homes and have also claimed the lives of several victims, East Timor deputy prime minister Jose Reis said in a statement. "There are roads that have collapsed, trees have fallen, and made it difficult to access some areas," he said, calling the incident the worst in East Timor in 40 years.
Photographs shared by the disaster mitigation agency showed powerful currents flowing through a village, while the roads were scattered with debris left behind by the flooding. Jati said that the aid and relief efforts for the affected villages were hampered by the absence of transportation to the island. It can only be reached by sea, but links have been suspended due to high waves and severe weather conditions.
Forest loss blamed for frequent floods
Many environmentalists attribute the growing number of flash floods, which kill hundreds of people every year, to the loss of forests and peatlands due to deforestation and land-use change. The conversion of forest and peatlands to mining and palm oil fields has affected the absorption of rainwater, leading to a sudden rise in water levels after heavy rains. In the last 20 years, the country has reportedly lost 9.4 hectares of primary forests.
The climatology and meteorological agency predicted that some parts of Indonesia could face extreme weather with heavy and torrential rain, strong winds and large waves during the week ahead. Thousands of houses still remain submerged by floods in Indonesia's East Java province, but the waters have been receding and a number of evacuees returned home, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. "The water level now is around 20 to 50 cm high. Yesterday it reached 80 cm high," Jati noted. He said it rained heavily on Friday, causing the Wrati, Patuk, and Kedung Larangan rivers to overflow.
Cyclones and earthquake pose threat
On Saturday, the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency said that there were two tropical cyclones namely 90S in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sumatra Island and 99S in the Savu Sea, East Nusa Tenggara. "Both the tropical cyclones will strengthen in the next 24 hours," the agency's deputy for Meteorology Guswanto said. The agency warned of heavy rainstorms and strong winds in most parts of Indonesia for the next week.
Moreover, a 5.9 magnitude quake jolted Indonesia's eastern province of Maluku early on Sunday, the meteorology and geophysics agency said. The quake struck at 1:42 a.m. on Sunday Jakarta Time (1842 GMT Saturday), with the epicentre at 163 km south of Ambon, the capital of the province, and the depth of 329 km under the seabed, the Xinhua news agency reported. The intensity of the quake was felt at II to III MMI (Modified Mercalli Intensity) in the city. The tremor did not potentially trigger a tsunami, the agency said.
(With inputs from IANS)