Aid finally reaches isolated Indonesian flood victims

Aid has finally reached the most isolated areas of Sumatra island a week after flash floods killed more than 100 people and forced 400 000 to flee, Indonesian officials said on Friday.

Relief workers had faced problems with slow and limited supplies, as well as access difficulties due to the floods and landslides which have destroyed roads and bridges in worst-hit Aceh and neighbouring North Sumatra.

“Maybe relief distribution has not been perfect but we have managed to reach all previously isolated areas,” said Aceh provincial spokesperson Nurdin Joes.

The Kompas daily, however, said several villages remained cut off.

“At least 16 villages are still unreachable by water and land vehicles,” it said, quoting the disaster mitigation unit in the worst-affected district of Aceh Tamiang.

Tonnes of food, water, tents and medical supplies have been trucked and flown into the main cities and towns in areas hit by the flash floods triggered by torrential rains.

But slow distribution of food sparked anger in Aceh Tamiang on Thursday as around 100 flood victims, most of them mothers carrying their children, looted an aid distribution post in Payabedi.

Joes said helicopter air drops to remote areas had been fairly successful as the weather had been quite good in the past few days, but he remained alert for any possibilities.

“In difficult to reach areas, the people deliver aid along a distribution chain, in a relay from district capital all the way to the worst-affected areas,” he said.

“We still need instant food, medicine and mosquito nets,” he added.

The United States said on Friday it would provide $100 000 in emergency assistance through the Red Cross to supply hygiene kits, plastic sheets, sleeping mats and other items for flood victims.

About 400 000 people fled the floods, with 365 335 people displaced in Aceh province alone as whole villages were swallowed. Hundreds of hectares of rice paddy have also been destroyed just ahead of the harvest.

With water levels dropping in many areas, more than 100 000 people have returned home to face a massive clean-up of mud-filled houses.

A local legislator said more volunteers and heavy equipment were needed to help.

“We need more volunteers to help clean up mud and garbage which were brought by the floods,” Jamaluddin Muku told the official Antara news agency.

“It’s true that the government and the military have sent some equipment but they are not enough to cover all locations affected by the floods,” said Muku, who represents Aceh Tamiang.

Further rainfall upstream created fresh floods in some areas.

In Kuala Simpang, capital of Aceh Tamiang, more than 10 houses were swept away Friday morning when the Tamiang river rose.

Safni, a young mother of three, had only recently returned to clean her house which was submerged by floods last weekend.

“I don’t know where to go from here, I have no other families [of relatives] that I can go to,” she said while watching the strong currents near where her house once stood.

More than 250 000 remaining evacuees from Aceh and North Sumatra are being accommodated in government buildings, schools and tents in 22 locations, while others have found shelter with relatives and friends.

The government has blamed illegal logging as one of the causes of the deadly floods, and pledged to intensify its efforts to replant forests.

In June, floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains killed more than 200 people in South Sulawesi province. - AFP

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