Torrential rains since Friday triggered widespread flooding and landslides in Kampar district in Riau, killing two people and rendering thousands homeless over the weekend. Officials said the heavy rains caused the Kampar River to overflow and flood entire villages in the district. Zurizal, the head of the Kampar Kiri Hulu subdistrict, said the flash flood claimed two lives in Gajah Batelut village when rising waters in the Sebayang River, an offshoot of the Kampar, swept away two members of the same family. “Residents found the body of one of the victims at around 9 a.m. on Sunday,” Zurizal said, identifying the victim as Budi, 23. The other person swept away was his 6-year-old niece, Naiada. Rescuers recovered her body later the same day. The flash flood also destroyed hundreds of homes in 11 villages in the area, one of the worst-affected being Subayang Jaya village, where the spike in water level caused a reservoir to burst. This also resulted in 4,000 meters worth of pipes, used for a clean water network, to burst. Elsewhere, the flooding destroyed at least five hectares of rubber plantations. Some residents fleeing their inundated homes sought refuge on higher ground, but most returned after the water began subsiding on Saturday, prompting concerns about more fatalities should another flash flood occur. Hamdi Hamid, a lecturer in social and environmental affairs at Riau University, urged the district administration to relocate villagers from the worst-hit areas for the time being.
“This is very important in light of the high potential for more flooding and landslides, which could lead to more loss of life,” he said. “The residents shouldn’t be allowed to go back to their flooded homes just yet because a flash flood could spring up at any moment. The biggest risk is if it occurs late at night or just before dawn, when people are least prepared for it.” Hamdi also called on the authorities to use the clean-up period as an opportunity to remap local zoning boundaries, pointing out there was no better time to identify which areas were at high risk from flooding and thus should be off-limits for human settlement. “Re-zoning the area will be an important step in the district administration’s long-term disaster management policy,” he said. The administration has come under fire for its late response to the disaster. Zurizal said that as of Saturday, the only aid supplies reaching the area were those supplied by political parties and companies. “We’ve had bottled water and instant noodles brought in by the PPP [United Development Party] and the PKS [Prosperous Justice Party], as well as other items from RAPP [Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper],” he said. Relief supplies from the administration began trickling in on Sunday.