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Church sends aid to Sumatra flood victims

Deforestation blamed for forced evacuation

Church sends aid to Sumatra flood victims
Church workers prepare to deliver aid to the flood victims
Windy Subanto, Padang

April 12, 2013

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Thousands of people affected by flooding in Mentawai Islands are getting rice, clothes, blankets, drinking water and cooking utensils. The relief items were sent by the diocese of Padang in West Sumatra province yesterday.

Heavy rains last week caused rivers to overflow, inundating more than 1,000 houses in four sub-district and forcing around 7,000 people to flee their homes. 

Some of the victims could do no better than climb onto their rooftops, said villager Besman Salelubaja. 

Many are now in temporary shelters. 

“For two days we could not cook and waited for outside help. Our cooking utensils were carried away by flood water,” said Bruno Sagari from Muntei village, in South Siberut sub-district.

Father Alexius Sudarmanto, head of the diocesan Socio-Economic Development Commission-Caritas (PSE Caritas), said the commission sent those materials to the Assumption of Mary Church in Siberut, the nearest station to flood victims. 

The condition of the area made it difficult for his team to transport and distribute the materials, he said.

According to Khalid Syaifullah, executive director of Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) for West Sumatera, the flooding on Mentawai Islands is the effect of massive deforestation.

"Deforestation has caused a low quality of land, which eventually results in the sedimentation of the Sikabaluan River," he said. Sedimentation, in turn, contributes to river overflow.

"We have issued recommendations to the local government to stop issuing permits to exploit forests in West Sumatera, but no concrete action was taken," Syaifullah said. "We will again pressure the local government to stop giving operation permits to plantations."
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