Friday, January 7, 2011

Indonesia Enters 2011 Cautiousness over Natural Disasters

Mount Merapi releases volcanic material into the air as seen from Cangkringan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010.

Jakarta, Indonesia (News Today) - Less than a week into the new year of 2011, floods have been reported happening in several cities in Indonesia claiming a four-year old girl’s life in Madura, East Java. Four fishermen were drowned in a climate-related sea accident in Jepara waters, Central Java, on Tuesday, two of them were found dead, and the two others were still missing.

Indonesia has indeed been experiencing abnormal natural phenomena over the past one year as La Nina has brought above-average precipitations. The country normally has two seasons, the dry and rainy season. But since early 2010, the rainy season had lasted for the whole year, causing floods and landslides in a number of provinces.

According to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), around 644 disasters had happened in the past year in which 1,711 people lost their lives throughout Indonesia. The number of people injured and reported missing was about 1,398,923 while 14,639 houses were ruined, 2,839 moderately and 25.030 lightly damaged, Sutopo Purwo, BNPB spokesman said in Jakarta on Monday.

Of the 644 natural disasters that occurred, 517 or 81.5 percent were hydrometeorological in nature. Geological disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami and volcanic eruptions happened 13 (2 percent), one (0.2 percent), and three (0.5 percent) times respectively. The biggest natural disasters that occurred in 2010 included the landslide in Ciwidey (West Java), floods in the upper and lower reaches of the Citarum river (West Java), the flash floods in Wasior (Papua), Mentawai tsunami and the Mount Merapi eruptions.

Indonesia still needs to be cautious because according to the Maryland-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Weather Service, La Nina might continue until March 2011.

"Enhanced low-level easterly trade winds and anomalous upper-level westerly winds continued over the equatorial Pacific. Collectively, these oceanic and atmospheric anomalies reflect a moderate-to-strong La Nina," said NOAA’s National Weather Service in its press statement received recently.

Consistent with nearly all ENSO forecast models , La Nina is expected to peak during November-January and to continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2011. Thereafter, the fate of La Nina is more uncertain, NOAA said. A smaller number of models, including the NCEP (National Center for Environmental Prediction) Climate Forecast System, suggested that La Nina could persist into the summer, it said.

Likely La Nina impacts during December 2010-February 2011 would include enhanced convection over Indonesia, the US weather service added. Based on the weather forecast data, the Indonesian authorities have warned the public to anticipate or prepare for an even higher frequency of water and weather-related disasters in the country, than in the past year.

There would be an increase in hydrometeorological disasters in Indonesia, especially in the January-March period, Sutopo Purwo, the BNPB spokesman said. Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world due to its location on the Pacific Ocean’s "ring of fire" of volcanoes and earthquakes.

One of the worst ever disasters hitting Indonesia in modern history was a 8.9 earthquake and a subsequent deadly tsunami which devastated Aceh Province (northern Sumatra) and Nias Island (North Sumatra Province) on December 26, 2004. The gigantic tsunami killed at least 200,000 people and left around one million people homeless in Aceh and on Nias alone.

The impacts of the tsunami had also affected other countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India. During the October 2010 alone, parts of Indonesia have been seriously affected by three major disasters.

The first one was a flash flood in Wasior, West Papua Province, on October 3. The Wasior flash flood killed 124 people, left 123 others missing, injured 185 others seriously, and 535 lightly.

The second was a magnitude-7.7 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami in Mentawai Island District, West Sumatra Province, on October 25. The earthquake and tsunami killed at least 408 people, caused 303 others to go missing, injured 270 badly and 142 lightly

And the third was the Mount Merapi eruptions that had began on October 26. At least 259 people had perished and many others sustained burns and became displaced by the eruptions. In October 2009, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono had reminded the people that due to its geography, Indonesia is vulnerable to disasters and therefore they must be prepared for that.

"We must become used to it and always be alert," she said about a month after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that had devastated West Sumatra, and killed 1,117 people, injuring thousands of others, and destroying at least 88,272 houses.

The government has taken a number of measures to increase the speed of disaster mitigation actions, among other things by establishing the National Board for Disaster Mitigation and installing Tsunami Early Warning Systems in several coastal areas. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in January last year reminded that the nation must always be ready to manage disaster situations and remain prepared as well as vigilant so that whenever disaster trikes, the country could overcome it.

He emphasized the importance of disaster handling quick response unit (SRC-PB) to give an emergency response, especially in the first hours after a disaster occurred. For the disaster mitigation program in 2011, BNPB allocates Rp228 billion, among other things for the mapping of disaster-prone areas in Indonesia, training for government officials and local people to raise their awareness about natural disasters and certification of around 10,000 volunteers.

"The BNPB’s budget for disaster mitigation and handling efforts in 2011 amounts Rp795 billion plus overseas grant worth Rp17 billion, so in total it reaches Rp812 billion. Of the total Rp812 billion, Rp228 billion will be for disaster mitigation program," BNPB Chairman Syamsul Maarif told the press in Jakarta, Tuesday.

One in three of Indonesia’s 73,000 villages is prone to natural disasters, Syamsul Maarif said.

"We predict that 184 districts and cities in Indonesia can be hit by an earthquake while 150 cities are facing the risk of being engulfed by tsunami. Seventy eight cities and districts can be impacted by volcanic eruptions, 176 districts are prone to flooding and 154 cities to landslides," Syamsul added.

Therefore, the agency has called for alertness of government officials and the public. From the total of 497 districts and cities in Indonesia, 306 have established local regional disaster management agencies, and Syamsul hoped that by 2012 each region would set up its own disaster management agency.

Source : kompas

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