Indonesia: thousands displaced in Sulawesi floods and landslides

Publié: 31 juillet 2007 0:00 CET

Joe Lowry, regional information delegate in Bangkok

More than 100 people are reported dead and at least 8,000 have been displaced by the landslides and floods that have hit Indonesia's central Sulawesi district, with water and mud three metres deep seriously hampering rescue work.

An Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia – PMI) response team has reported that 24 villages are flooded in four districts of the Morowali region, with three cut off by flood waters.

"Flood water is decreasing but the main challenge for us is road access to the affected areas," says Fachry Singka of the International Federation's Disaster Management Unit in Jakarta, who is in close contact with the Red Cross Satgana (disaster response team).

The affected area is incredibly remote - road transport from the district capital takes twelve hours, followed by a sea journey of 80 kilometres, and then another two hours by road to the worst-affected areas - 18 hours in total.

This difficulty in getting access has been further exacerbated by unfavourable sea conditions.

"The team is finding it difficult to get in by sea due to exceptionally high tides", continued Mr Singkha. "But we do know that over 20,000 people are living in very difficult conditions, and we expect that number to increase".

PMI teams have also reported back from another extremely remote location, further north on the spider-shaped island of Sulawesi. Heavy weather has caused damage to over six hundred houses, along with three places of worship, two bridges and a dam, while one school was swept away in the strong floods and landslides.

Emergency supplies for 500 people have so far been despatched by PMI. Red Cross Satgana volunteers have also been providing first aid and helping evacuate villagers to higher ground, as well as establishing a field kitchen in one of the affected villages.

The floods are the result of days of heavy rain drenching central Sulawesi. More heavy rain is expected in the coming days, but the local government has established two command posts to strengthen coordination and to get relief supplies moving. The most urgent needs are reported to be food supplies, drinking water, shelter, medicine, and non-food items such as hygiene kits, supplies for babies, and blankets.
A further eleven districts of Sulawesi are affected, though not as seriously as Morowali.

This bout of flooding is the latest in a string of similar incidents to affect the region in recent times. Sixteen villages in Central Sulawesi were drowned by rapidly rising waters in May of this year, forcing thousands to flee to higher ground. Flooding in June of last year claimed 250 lives in South Sulawesi and left 100 missing.