Jongker Rumteh, The Jakarta Post, Manado
Flooding and landslides have killed 32 people in North Sulawesi since last week, including 26 in the capital Manado as of Wednesday.
The spate of natural disasters on Feb. 13, Feb. 19-20 and Feb. 21 left dozens of people hospitalized and hundreds homeless after floodwaters swept away houses, schools and bridges. Livestock populations also were decimated.
Many of the victims, especially children, were caught in the ruins of their homes after they collapsed.
The head of Manado municipality's environmental agency, Amos Kenda, cited the sloping topography of the area, high rainfall, poor drainage and the absence of environmental protection efforts as causes.
"Lots of things can be done, such as preservation and regulating the drainage system. But the most important thing is to be on the alert and be aware of the signs of nature."
The decreasing number of water catchment areas was another factor, he added.
The local office of the Meteorological and Geophysical Agency said the current torrential rains would taper off, but heavy rain was forecast to continue through June.
Amat Subekti said current rainfall levels were much higher than the usual 300 millimeters.
"Today rainfall reached 710 millimeters," he said.
In Singkil subdistrict, resident Ibrahim Abas said he was preparing to leave his home when he heard a loud noise from a nearby hill.
"It was a big mound of earth which hit my house," he said. His three-year-old daughter Frida was killed when the earth covered the living room. The landslide also killed several other children in the area.
In Sario subdistrict, also in Manado, subdistrict head Jacson Rauw helped residents whose homes were still under water.
Food supplies and medicines have been sent to victims and the local administration is providing Rp 1 million (US$106) in compensation to families of the deceased.
Material losses are estimated to reach over Rp 100 billion, according to an official with the disaster mitigation task force.
The environmental impact control office lists 67 disaster-prone areas in Manado, consisting of 41 vulnerable to floods and 26 where landslides are common.
The true cause is of course the illegal cut of wood, as a result of which the many constant rains have influence on the bare soil so that those are washed away. Jan