Landslide in Indonesia and the Need for Rural Disaster Prep

Intern Elizabeth Rogers writes on the Landslide in Banjarnegara

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Last Friday, December 12, in Banjarnegara Indonesia, a roaring sound was the only clear warning sign before three major mudslides buried more than 100 homes and sent residents fleeing.

The monsoon rain season, usually lasting from October to April, makes landslides relatively common in Indonesia. According to a spokesman from the National Disaster Management Agency about 41 million Indonesians are vulnerable to landslides and most of these have no means of protecting themselves. There had been heavy rain for several days prior to the 12th loosening the soil and causing the mudslides.

Photo credit Accuweather.com

Photo credit Accuweather.com

The mud and debris covered large tracks of land and buried homes, power lines and forests. Much of the rescue attempts were hampered because the lack of power and telephone lines, this made communication extremely difficult in the remote area. In addition to the initial damage there were continuing rain and thunderstorms preventing rescuers from reaching the villages. The route into the heavily affected area is also extremely damaged due to additional mudslides and this hindered rescue attempts. In addition, many of the 400 rescuers workers had to resort to using their bare hands to dig out survivors due to lack of heavy earth moving equipment.

Approximately 379 people from the surrounding areas have been evacuated and are in temporary shelters. As of Monday the 15th the death toll had reached 56 with 52 people still missing.

Unlike those affected by Ruby, the recent typhoon in the Philippines, the villagers in Banjarnegara had little to no official warning and as such did not evacuate in time. Effective early warning systems are key in disaster preparation not only for people to evacuate and spare lives but also to spare survivors psychological trauma and ease rebuilding. Unfortunately it is often those most vulnerable to these types of disasters who have the least access to early warning systems. With climate change increasing the frequency and intensity of storms and altering previously predictable weather patterns weather related disaster will most likely increase in the years to come.  This makes education on and implementation of disaster preparation programs even more important.

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Read our report Aceh+10: Legacy of the Boxing Day Tsunami as we revisit our recovery partners and the impact of disaster giving.