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Central Tapanuli declares state of emergency after seven die in flood, landslides

Jakarta Post
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Apriadi Gunawan

At least seven people died during severe flooding and landslides that struck six districts in Central Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra, following heavy rain in the early hours of Wednesday, prompting local authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The flooding, which occurred at around 1 a.m., also damaged several homes and public infrastructure, effectively cutting off access to the road that connects Barus and Pakkat districts.

Central Tapanuli Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Safaruddin Ananda Nasution said that, as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, seven people, namely a married couple in Barus district and five residents of Andam Dewi district, were confirmed dead.

“Two victims [died] after being washed away by floodwaters in Barus district, while five victims in Andam Dewi were buried under landslides,” Safaruddin said.

North Sumatra BPBD head Riadil Akhir Lubis said the 2-meter-high flood happened when most residents were sleeping, so they were left with a small window of opportunity to evacuate themselves. Barus and Andam Dewi districts suffered the worst flooding, he said.

“At least 22 residents were injured [in the disaster],” Riadil told The Jakarta Post.

Hari Susanto, the search and rescue (SAR) coordinator in Sibolga, said three of the bodies had been identified, including a 50-year-old resident of Andam Dewi district.

In Barus district, the SAR team managed to recover and identify the bodies of a wife and husband. The couple were found dead in their car, which had been dragged away by a strong current, Hari said.

He went on to say that the SAR team had cooperated with the BPBD, the military and the police to rescue the remaining victims.

“The team in the field is currently assessing the losses and damages inflicted on homes and public infrastructure as a result of the disaster,” Hari said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Medan had previously warned the public of heavy rain, strong winds and thunder that was likely to occur across the province on Tuesday evening.

Ahmad Darni, a resident of Mudik village in Barus district, claimed that the recent flooding was the worst to have struck Central Tapanuli since the floods of four years ago.

“The current was so strong it actually damaged homes. Some of us were lucky to have gotten out in time and evacuated ourselves to a safer area,” Ahmad told the Post.

Central Tapanuli BPBD secretary Agus Haryanto said the administration had declared a state of emergency that would remain in effect over the next seven days.

He said the police and the military had helped set up emergency shelters and public pantries in Barus and Andam Dewi districts.

“The victims need immediate logistical support, such as clothing and baby products,” Agus added. (rfa)