Friday, 18 September 2009

Regent blames flash floods on illegal logging

Apriadi Gunawan , The Jakarta Post , Medan | Fri, 09/18/2009

Rampant illegal logging has been blamed for recent flash floods that hit six villages in North Sumatra, killing dozens of people, Regent Amru Daulay has said.

Amru blamed deforestation after inspecting the baron area that was once a forest not far from the disaster areas, adding the area was previously part of a forest concession area (HPH).

He said the HPH license had been revoked 10 years ago and since then illegal logging had been rampant because of a lack of supervision from authorized agencies.

"The flash floods in Muara Batang Gadis district, Mandailing Natal regency, are attributed to illegal logging, which has prevailed unabated. We have no authority to supervise logging because it is the responsibility of the Forestry Ministry," Amru told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday evening.

Amru said his relief workers were facing difficulties in reaching the affected areas because their limited facilities made the rough terrain difficult to access.

"We face difficulties reaching the area due to rough terrain. We have only one rubber dinghy and can not reach the location because there are many logs clogging the river," Amru said.

Amru added that due to the setback, relief workers had only distributed part of the relief aid available, the rest of which is stranded at a border area located about 7.5 hours away from the affected area.

"We were informed by a council member living in the disaster area that many evacuees are going hungry because of food shortages. Hopefully, the team bringing food aid will arrive tonight," Amru said.

Amru said his office had yet to ascertain the number of dead and missing persons as communication lines have been cut.

However, based on reports from the local council member, the bodies of eight victims have already been recovered.

At least 15 people were reportedly killed and 25 others missing in the flash floods, which happened before dawn on Tuesday.

The six villages swept by the floods were Rantau Panjang, Lubuk Kapodang I and II, Tagilang, Saleh Baru and Manuncang.

North Sumatra Governor Syamsul Arifin said his office had sent a joint team made up of members from the health and social service offices to assist survivors. He added he had also instructed Regent Amru to immediately take the necessary steps to help survivors. Syamsul said around 2,200 of the affected families had evacuated.

"We must be responsible for the survivors. They need relief aid immediately, especially because they will celebrate Idul Fitri in a short while," said Syamsul, adding relief aid includes rubber dinghies, instant noodles and clothing.

Syamsul said the provincial administration had also 50 tons of rice stored at the provincial logistics agency, which will be made available to the survivors as soon as possible.