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Minister calls illegal loggers 'terrorists' after flood disaster JAKARTA - Indonesia's environment minister on Wednesday branded illegal loggers as terrorists after a flood disaster blamed on tree-felling killed an estimated 200 or more people in North Sumatra. Nabiel Makarim criticised the army and police for involvement in the practice, which is rampant across much of the huge archipelago.
``I insist that based on the criteria in the anti-terrorist law the fact is, destruction of the environment such as illegal logging can be categorised as terrorism,'' Makarim told reporters. ``The consequences caused by the destruction of the environment like floods and landslides are just as dangerous as the consequences of a bomb,'' the minister said.
Indonesia has been hit by a series of bombings this decade. Makarim, despite his remarks, did not say that illegal loggers should be charged under the anti-terror law passed after the Bali attack in October 2002, which killed 202 people. In the resort town of Bahorok, which was devastated by a raging flash flood Sunday night, a rescue official named Burhan said 96 bodies have been found and 140 others are reported missing.
Officials have said there is little if any hope that any of the missing survived the flood. Some may have been washed miles downstream. Police, troops and civilians searched the Bahorok river for more bodies and used heavy equipment to remove debris. Chainsaws were used to cut logs. Makarim said the environment ministry is trying to prosecute 48 environmental cases, particularly cases of illegal logging, but it is not easy because the judiciary is corrupt.
``It is difficult to combat illegal logging because we must face financial backers and their shameless protectors both from the Indonesian armed forces and police, and from other government agencies,'' he said, after discussing the problem with President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Makarim said natural disasters in Indonesia have increased over the last three or four years. ``This is firmly connected with an extraordinary amount of illegal logging.''
In a speech Wednesday, Megawati said she had ordered the welfare ministry to ``take whatever steps needed to reduce the suffering'' of victims. Five foreigners were among those killed. Along with the surging floodwaters came hundreds of logs, felled on the slopes of nearby Mount Leuser national park and washed down the river. They smashed into scores of homes, many of them tin-roofed bamboo structures, as well as resort cottages on the riverbank.
About 450 homes or other structures were destroyed along with 35 resort cottages, two mosques and eight bridges. Bahorok, 96 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Medan, is on the eastern fringes of the park. It is the home of a famed orangutan refuge, which is popular with tourists who also go trekking and white-water rafting in the area. A series of officials including Vice President Hamzah Haz have already said rampant illegal logging helped cause the disaster.
Provincial governor Rizal Nurdin, quoted by The Jakarta Post, said logs were believed to have piled up in the upper reaches of the river and to have partially dammed the flow. ``The heavy rains caused the log dam to burst and wash down other huge logs along the riverbank. This caused a disaster as it swept away homes,'' Nurdin said.



Posted in Weather @ 06 November 2003 00:04 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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