Flash floods and landslides strike West Java, displacing thousands

Published: 29 September 2016 10:56 CET

By Paulus Enggal, IFRC

As heavy rains continued through the night, 52-year-old E’en was cleaning her house in the village of Haurpanggung, West Java, while her husband and children slept. She never imagined that she would lose her home that night. 

“I’ve lived here for 40 years, and this was the first time we experienced flash floods in this village,” she explained. “I heard shouting outside and when I opened the door to investigate, water rushed in. Thankfully, we were rescued and no one in my family was hurt.” 

According to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, at least 37 people have died and 20 others are still missing after flash floods and landslides struck Garut and Sumedang regencies in West Java. 

Reports from the National Disaster Management Agency indicate that 858 houses were destroyed and 1,600 others were damaged. Nearly 6,400 people have been displaced in the Garut regency, where water reaching 2 meters high in some areas inundated at least eight sub-districts. Landslides displaced 1,300 people in the villages within the Sumedang regency.

Irfran Hendriansyah, 35, witnessed floodwaters sweeping houses off their foundations in his village at Haurpanggung. “The water was massive like ocean waves. It reached nine meters high along the Cimanuk River and destroyed everything in its path,” said the night guard. Irfan and his group of friends have managed to help at least 50 people who were trapped in their houses in Haurpanggung. 

“We evacuated them using rubber tubes commonly used by sand miners,” he explained.

“We moved everyone to the second floor of a building, but the water kept rising so everyone had to be evacuated to a temporary camp.” 

Like many of the villagers in the area, E’en and her family have little choice but to move back to Haurpanggung when the water recedes. “This is where I work, and my children go to school here,” she said. “But we won’t build the house so close to the river next time.” 

Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground providing support to the displaced communities since the onset of the floods, particularly for those living in the temporary camp. To date, the volunteers have distributed more than 50,000 litres of clean water, blankets, toiletries and clothing. 

“Communities living in the area were eager to help us build temporary latrines and bathing areas,” said Den Eky Julianto, the Water and Sanitation Coordinator for the Indonesian Red Cross. “We’ve also provided psychosocial support and a mobile clinic for the communities, and we distribute 7,000 litres of clean water each day.”