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Aceh Floods Drive Thousands From Homes

December 21, 2009

Nurdin Hasan

Banda Aceh. Flash floods have damaged hundreds of houses and displaced about 5,000 people in Aceh, a local official said on Monday.

M Gade Salam, head of Pidie Jaya district, said no casualties were reported as a result of the floods, which hit over the weekend and are estimated to have caused up to Rp 20 billion ($2.1 million) in damage.

“In some areas the floodwater was two meters high, leaving mud up to one meter deep,” he said, adding that residents were caught by surprise as it rained in the Bukit Barisan mountain range and not in the affected areas.

Four of eight subdistricts in the newly established Pidie Jaya district were flooded, with Meureudu and Meurah Dua being the worst hit. Meureudu is the district capital.

“At least 20 houses and four bridges were swept away by the floods, and roads, bridges and irrigation [infrastructure] were destroyed,” Gade said.

He added that heavy equipment had been dispatched to help clear the mud from the streets.

He said residents were beginning to clean up their houses, but they could not yet reoccupy them due to the amount of water and mud remaining. Relief goods have also been distributed to displaced residents.

“The displaced are still healthy at the moment,” Gade told the Jakarta Globe by telephone. “We have also opened health clinics at each refugee post and public kitchens have been open since Sunday.”

He said several government offices were flooded, destroying many important documents. He said dozens of schools had also been forced to declare a holiday despite the fact that local authorities had schedule examinations across the province for Monday.

Abdullah Gani, 52, a local journalist and a resident of Meureudu, said this was the worst flooding to strike the area in his lifetime.

“Village elders say the flooding was due to the removal of mountain rocks to be used as breakwaters on beaches,” Abdullah said.

“The rocks acted as a nail. Once they were removed, there was nothing to block the water when there was heavy rain in the mountains,” he said.

Several of the flooded villages were affected by the December 2004 tsunami, which killed more than 100,000 people in Aceh.

Several of the areas hardest hit by the floods were still without electricity on Monday. Clean water was also in short supply because the public water system was not operating and many household wells were filled with mud.

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