(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Disaster workers prepare for more flooding

Bridge to Wamena in West Papua province, eastern Indonesia

Relief agencies are bracing for more floods after flash flooding and mudslides in eastern Indonesia killed at least 80 and injured another 90 on 4-5 October.

Indonesia, one of the most flood-prone countries in the world, was struck again on 4 October when heavy rains caused rivers to overflow, triggering landslides in the valleys of the mountainous West Papua province in eastern Indonesia.

“Flashfloods are quick, and instant, with a narrow window for response. We had one hospital damaged but the seriously injured were evacuated to the nearest one in Manokware [the provincial capital],” said an official with the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), who requested anonymity.

He added that with major access roads under water and several bridges destroyed, rescue workers were using helicopters and boats to transport evacuation equipment, medical teams, shelters, bedding, clothes and food.

Experts across Asia are predicting a spike in flooding in the region due to La Niña – the counterpart of El Niño – a weather phenomenon characterized by cooling temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, which is expected to increase rainfall over the western half of the ocean region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and northern Australia.

“We will have more rain than in previous years, with the flooding situation peaking in November,” said Ignacio Leon, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Indonesia.

Almost 4,000 people have been killed by flooding in Indonesia over the past decade according to the UN World Health Organization’s disaster database, EM-DAT.

Since June 2010, OCHA estimates 65,000 people have been affected by floods in Indonesia and 44ha of rice fields destroyed.


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