Indonesian President Vows to Rebuild Flood-Hit West Papua

Indonesian President Vows to Rebuild Flood-Hit West Papua

, 13 October 2010


Manokwari, West Papua. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the flood-hit West Papua town of Wasior on Wednesday, pledging immediate state support for recovery efforts.

At least 145 people were killed and 700 injured when landslides and floods triggered by heavy rains hit the town on Oct. 4. At least 100 people are still missing.

Around 5,000 people have since been evacuated to the neighboring districts of Manokwari and Nabire.

Yudhoyono’s visit on Wednesday, nine days after the disaster struck, came amid criticism from aid groups that the central government’s response to the incident was sluggish and that relief supplies were being sent into the disaster zone rather than to the evacuation camps.

Yudhoyono, however, defended the state’s response to the disaster, saying it had shown “full concern” for the flood victims.

The president addressed hundreds of evacuees at a shelter in Manokwari, saying his administration would rebuild Wasior with the help of town officials and the military.

“The top priority is to build new homes for all residents,” he said, adding that reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts would be carried out in line with ongoing recovery efforts.

“The central and regional authorities will continue to work hard, from burying the dead to treating the wounded and sheltering the homeless,” he said.

After meeting with evacuees and greeting survivors at Manokwari General Hospital, the group traveled to Wasior aboard the KRI Sultan, a Navy warship.

The town remains virtually inaccessible by road or air.

Earlier, Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said the government would draft a blueprint for flood prevention and mitigation efforts for Wasior.

He said the area was prone to severe flooding, with similar disasters in 1955 and 2008.

Agung said on Tuesday that the blueprint included plans to rebuild homes, community health centers, hospitals, roads, bridges and other facilities.

“This blueprint won’t just dictate what needs to be built, but will also take into consideration where and how it should be laid out to prevent or minimize damage from flooding,” he said.

“We’ll also roll out facilities aimed at empowering the area’s farming and fishing communities, and maybe even set up a micro-credit scheme so that eventually, residents of Wasior will be able to lead better lives.”

Agung, who was part of Yudhoyono’s entourage on Wednesday’s tour, declined to say who would foot the bill for the reconstruction. He said the issue of cost could wait until the president returned from his visit.

The president and several ministers are scheduled to return to Jakarta on Friday.