Dozens Flee Sumatra Flash Floods

Medan, North Sumatra. A flash flood caused by an overflowing river in Medan forced dozens of families to flee on Thursday morning.

Ali Rahman Sitompul, a 32-year-old resident whose house in Kelambir Lima hamlet, Tanjung Gusta subdistrict, was submerged, estimated the waters to have reached about 70 centimeters.

He said he, along with dozens of his neighbors, quickly fled their houses to escape the rising flood waters.

The flooding was caused by the overflowing of Tanjung Gusta river, which was only about 30 meters away from his house, he said.

“I am surprised with this morning’s flash floods. How can the river overflow? It has never overflowed,” said Sitompul, who has lived in Kelambir Lima for the past 20 years.

He said the flooding might have been triggered by heavy rainfall in the upper reaches of the Tanjung Gusta river.

There are so far no reports of casualties.

“As of 12 noon, there have been no confirmed casualties,” said John Purba, the head of the North Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), which has deployed its volunteers throughout the affected areas to provide immediate relief and aid.

Besides inundating the housing complex, the floods also submerged the Kelambir Lima neighborhood area, including a wet market, forcing local traders to temporarily close their shops.

The floodwaters also inundated the Kelambir Lima and Tanjung Gusta roads, disrupting the flows of hundreds of cars and motorbikes.

Over the past year, Indonesia has witnessed extreme weather disturbances, partly characterized by heavy rains and whirlwinds.

Most recently on Jan. 2, flash floods hit four villages in Kedungwuni subdistrict, Pekalongan district, Central Java. Two houses were destroyed and dozens of others damaged.

On Dec. 31, 2010, flash floods hit the western part of Singaraja town in Buleleng district, Bali. A local resident was killed and another one went missing. The floods also destroyed a bridge.

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