Lessons Learned from Flash Flood in Maluku Province – Indonesia

Way Ela dam, about two kilometers away from Negeri Lima village, Central Maluku, broke on Thursday, July 25, 2013. The broken dam caused ten-meter flood and swept away 470 houses, five schools, two praying rooms, one health care center, one village cooperative unit, one bridge, two clean water facilities and one telecommunication tower. As of today, it is reported that three persons missing, eight severely injured, 24 minor injured and 5,223 people were evacuated to various locations.

Maluku governor has declared 14 days for emergency response phase, started from July 25 – August 8, 2013. Main focus during this phase is the search of missing people and relief distribution of basic needs.

Way ela

Way Ela is a natural dam made in July 13, 2012 because of landslides that closed river stream in Negeri Lima village, Leyhitu sub-district, Central Maluku district, Maluku province. The size of the dam is 1,100 meters long, 300 meters wide, 215 meters high and 35 meters deep. Many argue that the thickness of the dam is good enough. However, the fact showed that the thickness is not a guarantee. Due to the heavy rain, the dam completely broke at around 12:25pm local time on Thursday, July 25, 2013 and five minutes later about 19.8M m3 of water swiped Negeri Lima village which located about 2.25 KM from the dam.

The survival of thousands of people from Negeri Lima village could not be separated from the government’s efforts in conducting evacuation simulation to prepare local communities at any time if this natural dam broke.

There are several lessons learned from this experience:

What worked well?

  1. Early warning system runs well. When the dam was in critical condition one day before on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, warning alerts was sounded and government instructed local communities to go to the evacuation centers that have been provided.
  2. The government through BNPB (National Disaster Management Office) and BPBDs (Provincial and District Disaster Management Offices) provided good facilitation and support to the affected people as soon as possible.
  3. The governor led the emergency response and provided full support to the affected people.
  4. Preparedness trainings for floods have been conducted, therefore, local communities aware when evacuation should be started.

Highlights of what to do next time:

  1. The government needs to review again whether the dam construction is in accordance with the needs. Extreme weather / climate change should be taken into consideration.
  2. The government should find a way to relocate local communities who live too close to the danger zones.
  3. Community awareness on disaster preparedness needs to be strengthened and should be the responsibility of all stakeholders includes community itself. Three persons missing suspected because they were running late to the evacuation centers.
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