Extreme weather looms over Indonesia

Torrential rains since last week have caused flooding and landslides in 12 regencies and municipalities, causing five regions to declare states of emergency.

Alifia Sekar and Dio Suhenda

Alifia Sekar and Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


The South Pesisir administration has declared a 14-day state of emergency in response to heavy flooding that is believed to have resulted in some Rp 170 billion worth of property loss. PHOTO: ANTARA/THE JAKARTA POST

March 13, 2024

JAKARTA – Authorities have urged the public to stay vigilant in the coming weeks for potential extreme weather in many parts of the country amid multiple ongoing natural disasters that have claimed dozens of lives.

Data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) shows that as of Tuesday, at least 32 people had died in flash flooding and landslides in West Sumatra. At least six people were still missing in South Pesisir regency, which was suffering the brunt of the disaster.

Torrential rains since last week have caused flooding and landslides in 12 regencies and municipalities. Five regions have declared states of emergency, including South Pesisir regency, Padang Pariaman regency and Padang city.

“I don’t want to hear any news about people being trapped and not getting their hands on relief aid. If there’s still flooding and the roads are cut off, you must find a way to get through,” BNPB head Lt. Gen. Suharyanto said on Monday during a coordination meeting on disaster mitigation in West Sumatra.

Authorities have also started preparing for the post-disaster recovery process. Suharyanto said officials should expedite the paperwork needed to relocate residents affected by the disaster. Either the BNPB or the Public Works and Housing Ministry would lead the rebuilding effort.

West Sumatra is not the only region to have been hit by flooding. Some areas in Kendari, South Sulawesi, have also been suffering from flooding since Wednesday. The disaster agency reported that more than 700 houses were inundated and at least one person had died.

Some residents claimed the flooding was the worst to hit the city in decades, kompas.id reported.

To help the 3,200 families taking shelter from the flooding, the Kendari Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) opened three kitchens to provide cooked meals for the affected residents, Antara reported.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecast moderate to heavy rainfall in some regions this week. It has warned the public to be alert for possible hydrometeorological disasters, such as strong winds and flooding.

The weather agency is also monitoring two storms with the potential to become tropical cyclones over the Indian Ocean south of Indonesia. While the agency does not expect either to become full cyclones in the coming days, they may still cause extreme weather events, such as strong winds and waves, in southern Java.

Some regions will be at increased risk of flooding until the end of month, according to meteorologist Deni Septiadi of the State College of Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (STMKG), although heavy rains might become less frequent as the country enters the transition period from wet to dry season.

Read also: West Java whirlwinds raise alarm over climate crisis

ore intense, frequent

Deni said the recent extreme weather events might have been caused by the Asian monsoon sweeping across the country during the peak of the rainy season between December and February.

Global temperature increases caused by the climate crisis might have also contributed to the increase in extreme weather events in the country.

“Almost every month since June 2023, [we] always hit the highest temperature on record,” Deni said. “This indicates that something has changed.”

He referred to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which found that the global temperature between June and December of last year was the hottest on record, an average of 1.48 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Read also: Warming world nears critical 1.5C limit in 2023: EU monitor

Many studies have also found significant increases in ocean temperatures.

“A hotter ocean will trigger more cloud-formation, storms and cyclones in Indonesia,” Deni said.

The El Niño weather phenomenon over the Pacific, which usually brings drier air to the Indonesian archipelago, also kept rain limited for the past few months. But when rainy season precipitation arrives during an El Niño year, it is typically more intense than usual, said National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) climatologist Edvin Aldrian.


While some regions are struggling with heavy rains, others are dealing with drought and land fires, said Suharyanto of the BNPB.

He said at the Monday meeting that authorities detected at least four suspected forest and land fires in the neighboring province of Riau.

Satellite monitoring compiled by the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s forest and land fire monitoring system (Sipongi) showed at least two hotspots in Riau and three others in Jambi between Saturday and Tuesday. Both provinces are located next to West Sumatra.

“This is the anomaly of our country,” Suharyanto said as quoted by Antara. He added that the government was concerned that drought would disrupt agriculture in some provinces.

Read also: MUI urges House to draft law to prevent climate crisis

Climatologist Dodo Gunawan of the BMKG’s climate change information center said it was common for Riau to be hit by drought around this month, although he said it might be a short spell of dry weather.

“We usually enter the dry season around May or June,” he said, although he added that not every region would experience a dry season and it would depend on the weather over the Pacific.

According to the 2023 disaster risk index released by the BNPB, hydrometeorological disasters such as extreme weather, flooding, droughts and forest fires showed a significant increase from 1,688 events reported in 2016 to 4,443 in 2021, accounting for 74 percent of disaster events in Indonesia that year.

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