"Global warming leads to the formation of clouds that can trigger whirlwinds."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia, a country which is prone to natural disasters - floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis and forest fires - has not experienced major disasters in 2012.

A total of 730 natural disasters have hit Indonesia this year, but none of them have had devastating effects, said Indonesia`s National Disaster Mitigation Agency`s (BNPB) spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, on December 20, 2012.

"The number of natural disasters this year has decreased compared to 2011. In 2011, there had been 1,663 natural disasters. In 2009, there had been 1,287 natural disasters. Most of the natural disasters in 2012 were floods, droughts and whirlwinds," he said. In 2010, as many as 644 natural disasters had hit the country.

Sutopo said natural disasters have claimed a total of 487 lives in 2012. As many as 675,798 people were forced to leave their homes and 7,891 houses were destroyed.

"Most of the natural disasters took place between January and April," he noted.

The mishap of MV Putri Ayu in the waters of Maluku on June 16, 2012 left 92 people dead.

The Putri Ayu boat, which was also carrying food and building materials, had been hit by huge waves and strong winds during its journey to Namrole (on the island of Buru), Maluku Province.

In April 2012, two consecutive earthquakes measuring 8.6 and 8.3 on the Richter scale killed five people in Aceh. Aceh is prone to earthquakes. The province was destroyed by a powerful earthquake that measured 8.6 on the Richter scale. Aceh was also hit by a tsunami on December 26, 2004. A total of 200,000 people lost their lives and one million people were left homeless.

Indonesia only has two seasons (rainy and dry). The rainy season starts in November and ends in March. The dry season begins in June and ends in October. Currently, a number of provinces are experiencing floods and landslides.

Many officials in Jakarta are anticipating major floods, which occur once every five years. According to them, Jakarta is likely to be hit by major floods, either this year or early next year. In 2007, Indonesia witnessed major floods in the country. Some 80 people in Jakarta and its surrounding areas were killed because of floods.

"Major floods were earlier expected to take place this year but it seems they will come early next year," said Pardjono, head of Jakarta`s Manggarai water gate, on Monday (December 24).

Joko Widodo, the Governor of Jakarta, said his administration is well-prepared to deal with floods. "All the necessary facilities and personnel are ready," he said, during a flood simulation exercise near the National Monument in Central Jakarta on November 6, 2012.

As many as 2,425 houses in Jakarta, particularly in Jatinegara and Kalibata sub districts, were affected by floods. The water level reached two meters. Floods had occurred because of heavy rains in the upstream areas of Bogor and Puncak, West Java.

A total of 60.9 million people live in Indonesia`s 315 districts/cities that are prone to floods. 124 million live in 270 districts/cities that are prone to landslides.

In the last two months, floods and landslides have also been reported in several provinces across Indonesia - Aceh, West Sulawesi, West Java, North Sumatra, Riau, Bengkulu and Banten.

In Aceh, six sub districts had been affected by floods, forcing more than 1,000 people to evacuate this week.

In early November, in the Mamasa district, West Sulawesi, flash floods and landslides had hit East Batangharu village. The natural disasters had killed 14 people. Three people had been reported missing.

Indonesia is located in the Pacific Ocean`s "Ring of Fire" of volcanoes and earthquakes. Indonesia was hit by 363 earthquakes (above 3.6 on the Richter scale) from January to December 10, 2012, according to the BNPB spokesman.

During this period, Indonesia witnessed a number of major earthquakes measuring between 7.4 and 8.3 on the Richter scale.

Some 17 people were injured, 559 people were evacuated and 3,615 houses were damaged. 641 houses were seriously damaged, 675 houses were moderately damaged and 2,299 houses were slightly damaged.

Whirlwinds also affect Indonesians every year. As a result of global warming, the number of whirlwinds is on the rise every year, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

"Global warming leads to the formation of clouds (cumulonimbus) that can trigger whirlwinds," he said.

Indonesia has been hit by 258 whirlwinds (36 percent of the total number of disasters that have struck the country) this year.

Some 115 million people reside in 404 districts/cities in Sumatra, Northern Java, East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi. These places are prone to whirlwinds.

Sutopo believes that the frequency and intensity of hydro meteorological disasters, such as floods, landslides, droughts, forest fires and whirlwinds will increase next year.

According to the National Meteorological, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), whirlwinds are likely to occur between March and April 2013, while floods and landslides are most likely to occur between January and March.

Forest fires can occur during the dry season next year in eight provinces: North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

The country is likely to be affected by droughts from August to October 2013, particularly in Java, Bali and East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

Sutopo said earthquakes cannot be predicted. 157 million people live in 386 districts/cities that are prone to earthquakes.

A powerful earthquake usually occurs after a tsunami. Since 1629, Indonesia has been hit by 172 tsunamis. 233 districts/cities are prone to tsunamis. Close to 5 million people live in these areas.

"There are six active volcanoes - Raung, Rokatenda, Sangeangapi, Lokon, Karangetang and Ijen. Other volcanoes that may become active are Gamalama, Bromo, Talang, Krakatau, Kerinci, Gamkonora, Ibu, Papandayan, Ili Lewotolo, Sinabung, Dukono, Semeru and Merapi," Sutopo noted.

"Next year, the disaster mitigation agency will implement a Tsunami Mitigation Master Plan to improve the public`s awareness of the tsunami early warning system," he stated.

"The government has allocated funds amounting to Rp1 trillion (in 2013). Rp16.7 trillion will be required for the implementation of the master plan in the next five years," Sutopo added.

Some of the tsunami-prone regions in the country are Mentawai (West Sumatra), Sunda Straits, Java`s southern coast, the southern coast of Bali-Nusa Tenggara and Papua.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, during his speech at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Yogyakarta (in October 2012), said, "Natural disasters and other crises could push millions of people into poverty".

"Indonesia will ensure that the post-2015 development agenda includes the natural disaster component," said Yudhoyono.

"Natural disasters - tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, floods, landslides and volcanic eruptions, are a threat to our national security and the public`s well-being. These natural disasters have also resulted in the destruction of various properties," he said.

Held once every two years, the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is organised by Indonesia`s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Some 2,600 participants from 72 countries and 25 officials had attended the last meeting.

President Yudhoyono is the first United Nations global champion for disaster risk reduction.

Yudhoyono is the first person who has been given the title, the global champion, by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). Yudhoyono has made disaster risk reduction a national priority following the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami 2004.
(T. F001/INE/KR-BSR/B003)

Reporter: by Fardah
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2012