The Jakarta Post, Thu, January 21 2016
Flooding caused by heavy downpours and overflowing rivers has inundated several regions in the country, killing at least one person and paralyzing economic activities in the affected areas.
In Kampar, Riau, floods have engulfed several districts in the regency over the past three days, causing material damage and claiming the life of 10-year-old M. Rifai Afri.
Rifai, who lived in Palung Raya subdistrict, Tambang district, was reported missing on Sunday afternoon at around 3 p.m. local time by his father, who had left him alone at home to buy kerosene.
The SD 15 state elementary school fifth grader was last seen playing alone not far from his home. He was believed to have slipped into a 120-centimeter-deep ground hole that had filled with water from the Kampar River, which had bursts its banks. As he could not swim, he was swept by strong river currents.
“His body was found the next day. His family refused an autopsy be performed on him as it wanted to bury him immediately,” Kampar Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Santoso said on Wednesday.
Overflowing water from the Kampar River has submerged areas along its banks after the Koto Panjang
hydroelectric power plant (PLTA) was forced to open its sluice gates to maintain a water level of 85 meters above sea level. Incessant rain in upstream areas in the neighboring West Sumatra province has caused water to fill up the dam drastically.
Apart from engulfing around 5,000 homes, flooding has also swamped various public facilities, including schools along the Kampar River basin area passing through the seven districts of Kampar, North Kampar, East Kampar, Rumbio Jaya, Tambang, Siak Hulu, and Perhentian Raja.
The Kampar Education Agency said that as many as 66 schools were been forced to close as classrooms were engulfed up to a meter high.
“There is no access to schools and the flooding could endanger the safety of children,” said Kampar Health Agency secretary Edi Rusmadinata.
Separately, Kampar Fishery Agency head Usman Amin said water released from the Koto Panjang PLTA had also caused hundreds of fish farmers from Merangin village, Kuok district, to Gobah village, Tambang district, to suffer losses of up to Rp 5.6 billion (US$414,000).
Spokesperson for the Riau and Riau Islands branch of state power company PLN, Sarno, said the dam must release its water to maintain its capacity and strength.
“The release of water from the dam due to overcapacity has been carried out for years. Before water is released, every area passed by the river is notified through village elders, community figures and village officials,” he said.
Flooding has also hit several regions in South Sumatra and East Java over the past several days.
In South Sumatra, a flash flood triggered by heavy downpours over the past couple of days has engulfed hundreds of homes in Muara Kelingi district, Musirawas regency. The 3-meter flash flood, caused by the overflowing Musi River following heavy rains from Monday, has brought people’s daily activities to a halt.
In Pamekasan regency, East Java, 11 local government buildings were inundated by floodwater on Wednesday following heavy downpours in the region’s downtown area for more than four hours.
Among the affected buildings are those belonging to the regency’s industry and trade, public works, irrigation and disaster mitigation agencies.
“All documents, however, are safe, as the floods occurred during work hours,” Pamekasan Irrigation Agency head Achmad Sjaifuddin said as quoted by Antara news agency.