Flood desaster in Bukit Lawang

09 November, 2003

Watch Indonesia! – call for help

Dear readers,

BukitLawang1enclosed we send you some new information on the flood disaster in Bukit Lawang/Bohorok, North Sumatra. Politicians blame illegal loggers for the disaster, labelling them as „terrorists“. However, we don´t know yet what kind of action they are planning to take in this new kind of „war on terrorism“. Meanwhile The Jakarta Post reports on heavy irregularities in the distribution of donations to the victims. It seems that once again local authorities are not ashamed to corrupt donations to enrich themselves.

We also added some information on emergency help provided by OCHA – the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Last but not least we added a call for donations obtained by PanECO/SOCP. You may find more information in the latest bulletin „SOCP News Issue 6“ published by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP),; e-mail:
We didn´t enclose the whole bulletin due to it´s large format (about 1 MB). However, we are glad to forward the bulletin to your e-mail address on request.

Best wishes,

Alex Flor
Watch Indonesia!

Sydney Morning Herald Friday, November 7, 2003

Indonesia Reels After Flood Disaster

It is a sign of the deep shock felt in Indonesia at this week’s devastating flood in north Sumatra that illegal loggers blamed for the disaster which killed possibly hundreds of people were labelled „terrorists“.

It is a sensitive term in Jakarta these days, and may at last signal an overdue determination to curb a trade which environmentalists have warned is stripping Indonesia’s forests of an area half the size of Switzerland every year.

After touring the sodden wasteland which used to be the Bukit Lawang resort, where tourists and Indonesians alike flocked to see endangered orangutans, environment minister Nabiel Makarim could barely contain his anger.

„Destruction of the environment such as illegal logging can be categorised as terrorism,“ he said.

„The consequences caused by the destruction of the environment like floods and landslides are just as dangerous as the consequences of a bomb.“

Significantly, Makarim also pointed the finger at police and the army, which have long been accused of profiting from the illegal logging trade across wide swathes of Indonesia.

The confirmed death toll from the floods which swept into the village last Sunday night as most people slept has already topped 100, with more than 100 still missing.

Rescuers believed many victims of the deluge were likely buried under the giant logs which lay strewn across the riverbank, where simple huts once stood to cater to the tourist trade.

The logs were an instant pointer to why the disaster occurred, because rescuers at previous Indonesian flood disasters had never seen anything similar.

„This is not a pure natural disaster,“ Enda Hartanta Bangun, an engineer assessing the damage, told news agencies.

Amiruddin, 57, a member of a local search and rescue team, said the disaster had been „clearly caused by illegal logging“.

The local government head, Syamsul Arifin, said the disaster was the result of more than a decade of army-backed illegal logging and inaction to stop it.

„The felling of forests by businessmen has been allegedly backed by (military) officers so it has continued unhindered,“ he said.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri despatched her husband Taufik Kiemas to tour the scene, along with Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare Yusuf Kalla.

Megawati also blamed illegal logging for the disaster, but stopped short of saying whether the government should abandon a controversial road project called Ladia Galaska, which has affected the ecosystem of the neighbouring Mount Leuser National Park.

Environmentalists have partly blamed the road for contributing to the flood, helping illegal loggers reach even deeper into the fragile park areas.

„Nature is angry with us because we have destroyed the environment,“ Megawati said.

„Our relatives in North Sumatra have to suffer because of this.“

Makarim said his ministry faced an uphill battle trying to curb illegal logging with the outcome of 48 current cases in doubt because of judicial corruption.

„It is difficult to combat illegal logging because we must face financial backers and their shameless protectors both from the Indonesian armed forces and police, and from other government agencies,“ he said.

But Makarim was ordered by Megawati to pursue law enforcement against the illegal loggers, who were reportedly fleeing Indonesia this week fearing retribution through the courts.

As the finger-pointing continued, rescuers searched for more bodies, but said they were being hampered by the lack of heavy lifting equipment to move logs and debris.

A report last year by the World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch, said Indonesia was losing nearly two million hectares of forest annually.

Megawati called on Indonesians to join hands and help carry out a mammoth national reforestation program.

„Should half of the nation’s 220 million people plant one tree, we would have a better hope of preventing more disasters,“ she said.


The Jakarta Post, November 8, 2003

Flood Victims Lament Lack of Aid in Bahorok

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Bahorok, North Sumatra

Around 400 families left homeless by the recent devastating flood in North Sumatra are complaining about a lack of food aid, while there appears to be irregularities in the distribution of donations to the victims.

Assistance continued to pour in from donors for the refugees in Bahorok subdistrict, Langkat regency, but they received less than what was due to them.

The refugees raised the complaint on Friday when Langkat Regent Syamsul Arifin gave a speech to express his gratitude to individuals, government and private agencies for their donations for the victims.

Durign his speech, a man suddenly shouted to the regent not to pile up the supplies in the Langkat capital city of Stabat and instead distribute them immediately to the refugees.

Syamsul admitted that food, including tons of rice, were stored in Stabat because if they were kept near the refugee camps, it could spoil due to the heavy rainfall.

Syarifuddin S. Sembiring, a refugee from Timbang Lawan village, said his family had so far received 30 kilograms of rice, one package of instant noodles and six blankets.

The assistance is not adequate to support his seven-member family, he added.

„At the refugee camp, we only eat instant noodles as we don’t have any money to buy side dishes. It’s extremely sorrowful, though we know many donors have come here to give money and other assistance. So, where did the money go if it was not distributed?“ Syarifuddin told The Jakarta Post.

Data from the disaster relief agency in Bahorok shows that at least 142 individuals and agencies have so far provided assistance, including 63.66 tons of rice, Rp 119 million (US$14,000), thousands of packets of noodles and thousands of articles of used clothes.

Those amounts do not include the assistance that arrived on Friday. Almost every day, a convoy of trucks and other cars have come to the relief agency to deliver aid for the refugees.

In a related development, some refugees refused to accept the Rp 1 million in assistance offered from the local administration, arguing that the amount was not what was promised by the central government.

During his visit to the flood victims on Wednesday, Coordinating Minister of People’s Welfare Jusuf Kalla said the government would provide them with Rp 1.5 billion. Part of the funds would be given to them in cash with the relatives of the deceased to receive Rp 2 million per family.

But one refugee Kadir, who lost three family members in the flood, said he rejected the Rp 1 million offered to him by relief officials.

„They had better kill us, too. It might be best for us,“ he added.

Regent Syamsul said the fund pledged by the minister was not disbursed yet and that the money, which had been distributed to the refugees so far, was part of the Rp 97 million donated personally by President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s husband Taufik Kiemas, and Rp 300 million from the Minister of Social Affairs

Bachtiar Chamsyah.

Syamsul and Bahorok subdistrict head Jaya Sitepu could not say why the food given to the refugees was inadequate.

Sitepu claimed he had ordered village heads to deliver the aid to the victims. „I don’t know about the problem of distribution because it is village heads who are responsible for the direct delivery of aid to the refugees.“

Grievances were also voiced by another victim Timbul, 40, from Bukit Lawang village. He said he was surprised by a government plan to relocate them.

Officials have asked us to pay Rp 3.6 million to get a new house or to pay them Rp 300,000 per month, he added.

„It’s crazy. We have already suffered with the deaths of family members, and now they (officials) are even trying to play these games. Please help us and look at what we badly need,“ Timbul said.

The refugees are languishing in their camps after a flash flood ripped through the popular Bukit Lawang resort town in Bahorok last Sunday night.

Rescuers found six more bodies on Friday, bringing the death toll to 125 people, including 40 children, said the local disaster relief agency.

The agency said at least 132 victims were recorded as still missing after the flood blamed on rampant illegal logging in the Mount Leuser National Park.

Three days after the disaster, cottages in Bukit Lawang abandoned by their owners were looted.

Jok Purba, who owns Ekolos Bukit Lawang Cottages, said he incurred tens of millions of rupiah in losses due to the looting by unidentified people.

He blamed security forces for failing to secure the area.

Indonesia: OCHA Consolidated Situation Report No. 153, 1-7 November, 2003

Provincial Updates 1. NATURAL DISASTERS

Floods in Bahorok, North Sumatra

The Jakarta Post reported on Wednesday (5 Nov.), that flash floods swept through Bahorok sub-district, about 100 kilometers from the North Sumatra capital Medan. The floods carried hundreds of illegal logs from the slopes of nearby Mount Leuser, about 96 km (60 miles) northwest of Medan city destroying houses, resort cottages, and concrete structures.

The most affected villages included Bukit Lawang, Timbang Lawang and Sampe Raya.

According to Satkorlak PBP North Sumatra, the number of dead persons has reached 112, while 125 persons are reported missing. The floods washed away 402 houses and heavily damaged 400 cottages, 402 kiosks, 8 bridges and one primary health center.

The Central Government, through the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, has granted IDR 1 billion (USD 119,047) to Satkorlak PBP North Sumatra. This emergency fund is to be distributed to victims and to support rescue, relocation and recovery operations. The Local Government will relocate the affected families to the nearest palm plantation area owned by State-Owned Enterprises. Satkorlak PBP has also distributed IDR 300 million (USD 35,714) of funding from the Ministry of Social Affairs to families of the dead.

USAID has provided a relief grant of USD 50,000 to be channelled through PMI. The grant will be used to support the ongoing emergency operation and to provide emergency relief kits, such as sleeping mats, plastic sheets, jerry cans, cooking utensils and personal hygiene supplies. USAID has also provided another USD 50,000 to fund initial emergency response at the disaster site through ongoing programmes with PMI and International Medical Corps (IMC). IMC is providing two mobile medical teams and will also support relief activities.

SOCP News Issue 6 (Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme)

How to help

Due to a mounting number of enquiries about how people can help, both YEL in Indonesia and PanEco in Switzerland have taken action.

Funds to be donated to YEL can be transferred to:

Account name:
Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) QQ Bencana Alam.

Account number: 0270118531003

Bank Address:

Bank Niaga
Cabang Medan-Gajah Mada
Jl. Gajah Mada No. 11
Sumatera Utara


Donations to YEL will be geared primarily towards the relief effort. They will be quickly used to provide basic essentials such as food, shelter and clothing etc. to ease the suffering of survivors of the tragedy. Given that this account is in Medan, only 2.5 hours away from Bukit Lawang, donations can be rapidly converted into provisions and quickly delivered to those in most need. YEL already has numerous staff in Bukit Lawang helping with the relief work.

Funds to be donated to PanEco in Switzerland can be sent to the following account:-

PanEco account:
Credit Suisse; No 490097-11;
Ban clearing number 4791;

Bank Address:
Credit Suisse
CH-8400 Winterthur

All donations to PanEco clearly noted as „Flash Flood” will automatically be directed to a special sub-account. Donations to PanEco will be geared more towards providing assistance to the community in the longer term, to redevelop in a sustainable way, to protect their environment and thereby avoid future catastrophes, and to educate those that have no other means of affording an education. PanEco will be launching an international campaign from its website ( in the coming days. Please look them up for further details.

Note: As stated, this bulletin is concerned only with Bukit Lawang, as a means to get word and some basic information out to others. We will try to put together another shortly to let you know how the SOCP has been getting on.

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme is a collaborative project involving the PanEco Foundation, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation.

For additional information about SOCP please see:

To contact us:

SOCP (Medan)
PO Box 1472
Medan 20001
Sumatera Utara

Tel/fax: +62-(0)61-8200737

SOCP (TN Bukit Tigapuluh)
Kotak Pos 310

Tel/fax +62-(0)741-43080

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