Sunday, December 30, 2007

Indonesia: President urges better forest management amid floods

Terra Daily, via Agence France-Presse: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged better forest management across the nation Saturday as he toured an area stricken by deadly landslides and floods this week. "That would be a brilliant way to take care of the Earth," he said, according to the state-run news agency Antara, adding that it would help prevent further disasters in the world's fourth most populous nation.

The landslides and floods have killed at least 65 people in heavily populated Central and East Java after torrential rains lashed the region. While activists blame such disasters on the disappearance of trees that stabilise soil and help absorb rain, local officials have insisted the unusually heavy downfalls have destabilised already vulnerable hilly areas. "We don't need to blame the mistakes of the past. What we need now is better care for forests," Yudhoyono said during a visit to Central Java's Wonogiri district.

Local disaster management official Sri Mubadi said rescuers were still hunting for nine missing people in the district. In adjacent Karanganyar district, the number of missing has fallen to seven after it was revealed that some people were found to have been out of town, said district official Heru Aji Pratomo. He said rescuers were continuing their search, which has been hindered by a lack of heavy equipment, amid rainfall. "I hope all the bodies will be retrieved today (Saturday) as their families have been waiting too long for certainty," he said, adding that two of the missing were children.

In East Java, the bodies of two children were recovered on Friday after a bridge was swept away by swelling flood waters. Police initially feared 50 people were missing based on witness accounts of who was on the bridge when it was swamped. Landslides and flooding are common in Indonesia during the rainy season, which hits a peak from December to February.

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