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155 die in Java double disaster JAKARTA - At least 155 people died in two separate natural disasters that hit Indonesia's main island of Java last week, as authorities Monday decided to end the evacuation process amid worries that more deaths are unaccounted for. In the East Java town of Jember, where a flash flood and mudslide swept through four districts that left 79 people dead and displaced 7,605 others on Jan. 1, the local government ended the evacuation work and shifted focus on rehabilitation and reconstruction.

"Refugees began to suffer from various diseases such as acute respiratory infection and skin diseases. We ended the evacuation to concentrate on helping these displaced people," said Mahmud Rizal, a staff with the Jember information and communication office. Rizal said about eight more villagers are still buried by the mudslide on the slope of Mount Argopuro in Panti district, some 800 km east of Jakarta.

He told Xinhua over telephone many people have taken refugee for fear of another disaster. In Sijeruk village in Central Java province, where a pre-dawn landslide completely buried 102 houses last Wednesday, officials put the death toll at 76 and many villagers were reported missing. "The evacuation process is officially ended but the search and rescue team continues to comb and search bodies in certain areas," local government official Untung Samekto said.

"The number of refugees in the disaster now reaches 526. We begin today to find a space to build temporary shelters," he told Xinhua from the scene, about 350 km from Jakarta. The two separate disasters were preceded by days of torrential rains, which both significantly raised water volume in nearby rivers and unleashed huge landslides to the lower ground.

National environment group Walhi has blamed the Jember flash flood on the rampant illegal logging that seriously damaged forests surrounding the Mount Argopuro. "In 2001, Jember had around 54,000 hectares of forest but the area has degraded to some 27,000 hectares today," said Walhi director Ridho Syaiful Ashadi. But government officials denied such allegations and pointed fingers to the three days of uninterrupted rains that triggered the two disasters.

Outspoken Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Kaban, a key figurein the country's anti-illegal logging campaign, refused to link the recent disasters with deforestation and said last week's flashflood and landslide were "pure natural disasters." "Whatever the truth is, it is no secret that Indonesia's forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate," The Jakarta Post newspaper warned in its editorial. The newspaper said Indonesia is losing an area of forest the size of Switzerland every year.

Minister Kaban said Wednesday forest degradation grew by the average of 2.83 million hectares a year and log theft reached some1 million cubic meters a year, inflicting a potential loss of some30 trillion rupiah (3.1 billion US dollars) to the government. The House of Representatives has recently completed a bill on disaster mitigation which calls for the establishment of agencies at central and regional levels tasked with preventing and handling natural disasters.

But the bill was cautiously welcomed as the proposed agencies will solely comprise government officials.


Link to related event Related event:
Landslides in Java

Related blog entries (category 'Flooding') Related blog entries (category 'Flooding'):
07 January 2006 · 180 dead or missing after landslides
06 January 2006 · Indonesia landslides death toll hits 120
06 January 2006 · Jember's victims build hope out of the mud
05 January 2006 · Jember flood death toll rises to 77


Posted in Flooding @ 09 January 2006 19:50 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink





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