President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, left, has arrived at Lembata on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Cabinet Secretariat)

Jokowi Visits Cyclone-Hit East Nusa Tenggara as Death Toll Rises to 163

BY :JAKARTA GLOBE

APRIL 09, 2021

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has arrived at Lembata, one of the districts in East Nusa Tenggara, hardest hit by tropical cyclone Seroja on Friday to oversee disaster mitigation the province. 

Jokowi came to the province accompanied by Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Head of Presidential Secretariat Heru Budi Hartono, the secretariat said in a statement. 

The rare tropical cyclone emerged at Sawu Sea on Easter Sunday, bringing heavy rain and strong wind that causes high tide, floods, and landslides that wreaked havoc in 18 districts across the province. 

The latest data from National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Thursday night showed the death toll has climbed to 163 with 45 others still missing, making the disaster the deadliest one in the province since the 1992 Flores earthquake and tsunami that killed around 2,500 people and injured 500 others. 

Lembata has confirmed 43 people dead, and 25 remained missing, second only to East Flores, where 71 people in Adonara island were perished — with five still missing — due to flash floods and high tides on Sunday. 

Close to 21,000 people have to leave their homes destroyed by flashflood and landslides or still inundated by floods. East Sumba accounted for close to half of the refugee number, with around 10,000 people in the district forced to leave home, BNPB said.

Seroja cyclone destroyed 99 key infrastructures and public facilities in the provinces, BNPB said. Damaged bridges, roads, or ports had made it difficult for rescuers' heavy machinery to reach disaster location, BNPB Head Doni Monardo said.

The storm caused the district's dam Kambaniru, the largest dam on Sumba island, to burst on Sunday, and the water from the dam reservoir inundated thousands of houses in the district.   

Khristofel Praing, East Sumba district head, told Antara news agency that 1,440 hectares of rice field in the district would not produce any harvest for the rest of the year due to loss of irrigation from the dam. 

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat has declared an emergency response status starting April 6 to May 5, 2021. 

BNPB's Doni said earlier that the government would not declare the disaster as a national emergency as the provincial and district governments were still intact and retain their capability to manage the disaster response and mitigation. 

A Twitter post from the Cabinet Secretariat showed Jokowi flying over Lembata to inspect the damages in the district. 

Power, Clean Water 

Since Monday, close to 636,000 customers in the province have been without electricity. The state-utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) has only managed to restore power for a third of the customers and several key facilities like hospitals and telecommunication towers. 

“Hospitals are our priority for the electricity recovery. This is a vital facility for providing care to the disaster victims, especially during this time of the pandemic," Agustinus Jatmiko, PLN's general manager for East Nusa Tenggara, said in a statement on Friday. 

As of Thursday, PLN has restored power to 1,398 substations, allowing 222,000 out of 636,000 customers impacted by the cyclone to get electricity again, Agustinus said. 

To speed up the electricity recovery process, the PLN Group has deployed 560 personnel, ]163 of whom come from other provinces, like Maluku, Sulawesi, West Papua, East Java, Bali, and West Nusa Tenggara.

Clean water was also a pressing need for the refugees. Christian humanitarian agency Wahana Visi Indonesia (WVI) has also deployed water tanks and clean water to the East Sumba, Kupang, Alor, South Central Timor, and East Flores. The agency aims to supply clean water to the region every morning and afternoon for three months. 

"Right now, we are focused on prioritizing safety and the needs of vulnerable groups, especially children. We distribute clean water, food, blankets, clothes, and cleaning tools for families and children under 2 years," Margaretha Siregar, WVI's humanitarian and emergency affairs division, said in a statement. 
 

 

 

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