Monday, October 11, 2010

Red Cross responds to new flooding in South East Asia

8 October 2010
Ahmad Husein, IFRC, Indonesia & Lasse Norgaard, IFRC, Bangkok

Torrential rains over the past six days in South East Asia have created severe flooding in the Indonesian province of West Papua and in central Viet Nam. More than 130 people have died, dozens are missing and hundreds have been injured.

It is estimated that more than a million people across five provinces in central Viet Nam have been affected. In Quang Binh, Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Nghe An and Thua Thien Hue, more than 61,000 houses have been flooded or damaged, and some 14,395 families (57,580 people) have been evacuated to safer places. Accessibility to some areas is becoming more difficult. Further rains are expected in the coming days.

Red Cross staff and volunteers sail relief items to affected areas in Quanh Binh province, central Viet Nam, where more than a million people are affected by floods

Staff and volunteers from local chapters of the Red Cross of Viet Nam (RCVN) have been active since the onset of the disaster. They have assisted with evacuations and distributed household kits comprising blankets, mosquito nets, kitchen utensils and water containers, as well as plastic sheets.

The IFRC has provided 155,064 Swiss francs (160,853 US dollars / 115,896 euros) through its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Red Cross of Viet Nam in delivering immediate assistance to some 50,000 beneficiaries. Assessment teams from Hanoi, including a representative from the IFRC delegation, have been deployed to some of the worst affected areas.

In the Indonesian province of West Papua, heavy rains on 4 October in the Teluk Wondama district unleashed a flash flood and mudslides causing extensive damage in the Wasior and Wondiwoi subdistrict. Flash floods as high as three meters hit the city of Wasior flattening houses and killing and displacing residents.

“It was raining really hard in the evening, but we didn’t realize that the floods would come,” said 51-year-old Utari, a Wasior resident. She heard a thunderous sound and suddenly waves of mud and debris swept down and destroyed her house. The mud dragged Utari and her son, Ujang, for 300 metres. They are lucky to be alive. Utari sustained minor injuries while her son suffered a broken leg.

Indonesian Red Cross Society ambulance team members wait for the boat carrying survivors from the flood affected area, Wasior, to Manokwari sea port, West Papua

Ten Indonesian Red Cross Society volunteers are on the ground in West Papua assisting the authorities with search and rescue operations and evacuations. The Red Cross has also sent five doctors and an ambulance team from Manokwari to assist the survivors and provide medical care. To date, 200 family kits, 100 baby kits, 100 hygiene kits and 50 family tents have been distributed to people displaced from their homes. Initial reports indicate that 4,000 people have been displaced. The local airport near the hardest hit area is buried under one metre of mud, making the delivery of aid difficult. Currently, relief items can only be dispatched by helicopter and aid workers can only travel by sea, which can take between 8 to 16 hours from Manokwari.

Utari and Ujang were amongst the lucky ones. They were evacuated together with 300 other survivors by the Red Cross and local authorities and taken from Wasior to Manokwari, where Ujang can get treatment in the hospital. Here, the Red Cross ambulance team is on standby to bring injured evacuees to local and naval hospitals. The Red Cross is also transporting internally displaced villagers to a designated shelter camp in the city.

“We have deployed five doctors from our medical action team to support the government health office’s team in assisting people in the affected areas,” says La Abidin, Indonesian Red Cross board member of West Papua province from Wasior City.

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