Indonesia May Face Double Disaster During Rainy Season
The country needs to be on the alert for two disasters in October, a potential hydrometeorological disaster and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country needs to be on the alert for two disasters in October, a potential hydrometeorological disaster and the Covid-19 pandemic. About 90 percent of all disasters over the last five years have occurred during the rainy season.
The rainy season, which is expected to begin in October, may a double burden for Indonesia. In addition to the ongoing health crisis, the country will also need to be ready to mitigate hydrometeorological disasters such as floods and landslides that usually occur during the rainy season.
October 2020 may bring with it two disasters. Indonesia has been managing a non-natural disaster caused the Covid-19 pandemic since March. While the pandemic has yet to subside, the country may also have to mitigate a potential natural disaster during the coming rainy season. Some regions in the country have already declared a natural disaster emergency for floods and landslides.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecast that this year’s rainy season will begin in October. As much as 34.8 percent of all regions in the country are expected to enter the rainy season before other regions.
Also read: Preparing to Anticipate Disasters
One characteristic of current weather conditions is that daily rainfall has increased in intensity and is often accompanied by strong wind. Just a few days ago, severe flash floods hit the Sukabumi area of West Java, after almost an hour of heavy rainfall.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Sukabumi administration have identified severe flooding in Cicurug, Cidahu, and Parung, and have declared a weeklong emergency (21-27 Sept. 2020) in the three districts. A total of 11 villages have been affected by flooding.
According to the initial analysis of the BNPB, the flood-affected districts are situated in the lowlands at the foot of Mount Salak where several rivers flow, including the Citarik-Cipeuncit and the Cibojong rivers. The area has a moderate to high hazard index against flash floods.
The increased rainfall intensity and water mass caused the natural weirs to collapse, allowing the water to rush down into low-lying areas.
In the 24 hours prior to the disaster, the rainfall intensity was very high and reached 120 mm, causing a sharp increase in the local water mass. In addition, natural weirs made of wood debris, stone, and other materials had formed. The increased rainfall intensity and water mass caused the natural weirs to collapse, allowing the water to rush down into low-lying areas.
Apart from Sukabumi, earlier flash floods hit five villages in two districts in Central Aceh regency on 13 May 2020. Following the disaster, thousands of houses in the regencies of East Aceh, Aceh Jaya, Aceh Besar, Aceh Tamiang, and Lhokseumawe were inundated on 17 May when local rivers burst their banks.
Floods and flash floods are the most frequent natural disasters in the country, followed by tornadoes and landslides. BNPB data for 2015-2019 show that at least 90 percent of all natural disasters in Indonesia occurred during the rainy season. The natural disasters also caused around Rp 97 billion in material losses.
Pandemic still ongoing
A potential natural disaster during the rainy season would further add the burdens of the government, which is still struggling to bring the Covid-19 health emergency under control. The surge in new Covid-19 cases and the nation’s high positivity rate indicate that the risk of the disease’s spread is still high.
New cases of Covid-19 over the past week (19-26 Sept.) reached a daily average of 4,379 cases and peaked on 25 Sept. with 4,823 new cases.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate remains very high, and reached 17.52 percent on 26 Sept. The average positivity for the past week was 16.64 percent, far higher than the 5 percent threshold as set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The highest daily increase in the number of new cases was recorded in Jakarta with 1,322 cases. This was followed by West Java with 386 cases, Central Java with 364 cases, and East Java with 279 cases. Meanwhile, the highest daily tally of Covid-19 deaths was recorded in East Java and West Java with 18 deaths each, followed by Central Java with 14 deaths and Jakarta with 12 deaths.
The figures are highly worrisome, particularly considering that the surge in new cases in the country is partly due to the increasing emergence of transmission clusters at offices, places of worship, dormitories, and in individual households. Indonesia’s Covid-19 response has also been hindered by the large number of deaths among health workers, which has reached above 100.
In addition, hospital capacity for admitting and treating patients has also started to decline, especially at hospitals in Jakarta and the surrounding area. One of the reasons that the Jakarta administration has reimposed the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) is the decline in the availability of beds for new patients at local hospitals.
In terms of bed occupancy rates, 77 percent of the 4,053 hospital beds designated for isolating Covid-19 patients, especially those who present moderate symptoms, are occupied.
State of disaster
Disaster management and mitigation is not restricted to natural disasters, but includes all hazardous events, including non-natural disasters like the outbreak of disease. Moreover, viruses that attack the respiratory system are always more virulent during the rainy season, when many people show symptoms of flu, colds and coughs.
A study on four types of coronavirus – HCoV-229E, HCoV-HKU1, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-OC43 – by Edinburgh Infectious Diseases, a research center at the University of Edinburgh, reveals that the seasonal patterns of transmission for these viruses are the same as the influenza virus, which increases in virulence when temperatures fall (winter).
Natural disasters are expected to occur in several regions across Indonesia and cause significant material losses in October, when the rainy season is forecast to begin. The rainy season is expected to peak in January 2021. This means that Indonesia must be ready to manage and mitigate natural disasters over the next few months.
The natural disasters that occur during the rainy season are predictable. Several incidences of flooding and landslides generally occur in the same locations each year. Disaster mitigation efforts must be reinforced is they have not been able to control these disasters until now, for example flood management in Jakarta and landslide prevention and mitigation in Bogor regency, West Java. An immediate need is to start dredging the rivers and canals in Jakarta.
Good coordination and public involvement is therefore needed in disaster mitigation efforts across the country.
While the disaster programs have been elaborated in a detailed manner, the main obstacle to Indonesia’s disaster management and mitigation efforts is policy implementation in the field. Good coordination and public involvement is therefore needed in disaster mitigation efforts across the country.
Proper implementation affects the completion of mitigation, emergency response, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs. Disaster migration is not just for natural disasters, but also for other types of disasters, including outbreaks of disease.
Preparations for disease management and control are urgently needed, especially as Indonesia is now battling the Covid-19 epidemic. Formulating risk management for each phase of mitigation is therefore vital to the Covid-19 management and control program.
Unlike natural disasters, which can be forecast on when they are likely to end, the end of a pandemic or epidemic cannot be foreseen. A pandemic involves many uncertainties, as evidenced by the broad transmission of the disease, the economic downturn, and the potential threat of a food crisis.
The double disaster Indonesia is likely to see from the end of 2020 to early 2021 requires appropriate management measures. If government misses the targets it sets, many things will be at stake, from public health and safety to the economy, which could face delayed recovery.
On the other hand, the people cannot just stand by and merely hope that the epidemic will pass. At this time, every citizen must be aware about the dangers of Covid-19 and the threat of hydrometeorological disasters during the rainy season. They must do their part by following the government’s guidance and direction in their activities. (Kompas R&D)