Indonesia flood, landslide death toll rises to 30

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Thousands of people have been displaced. (AFP)
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Torrential rains that overwhelmed a dam and caused landslides that killed some and displaced more than a few thousand residents in central Indonesia, officials said Wednesday. (AP)
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Residents have evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Indonesia flood, landslide death toll rises to 30

  • More than 3,000 people have been evacuated and at least 46 are being treated at local hospitals and health clinics
  • In October, flash floods and landslides killed at least 22 people in several districts across Sumatra island

MAKASSAR, Indonesia: The death toll from flash floods and landslides in Indonesia has risen to 30, as rescuers raced to find two dozen still missing, the disaster agency said Thursday.
Thousands have been evacuated from their homes as heavy rain and strong winds pounded the southern part of Sulawesi island, swelling rivers that burst their banks and inundating dozens of communities in nine southern districts.
Parts of the provincial capital Makassar have also been affected.
Rescuers and residents waded through streets filled with waist-deep water, some carrying their belongings above their heads.
“We urge people to always be aware of the possibility of floods and landslides,” said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Landslides and flooding are common in Indonesia, especially during the monsoon season between October and April, when rain lashes the vast Southeast Asian archipelago.
In October, flash floods and landslides killed at least 22 people in several districts across Sumatra island.
On Thursday, the disaster agency said that while flooding in South Sulawesi province was receding “the search and evacuation process is still ongoing.”
The death toll had stood at 26 on Thursday morning.
More than 3,000 people have been evacuated and at least 46 are being treated at local hospitals and health clinics.
The floods also damaged houses, government buildings, schools and bridges.


Rohingya greet UN refugee day amid doubts on return

Updated 20 June 2019
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Rohingya greet UN refugee day amid doubts on return

  • Muted celebrations in crowded Bangladesh camps, home to 1.1m Myanmar exiles
  • Cox’s Bazar — site of the world’s largest refugee settlement — observed the day with programs and festivities

COX’S BAZAR: More than 1.1 million Rohingya exiles in heavily congested camps at Cox’s Bazar observed UN World Refugee Day on Thursday despite continuing uncertainty over their return to Myanmar. 

Since 2000, UNHCR has observed June 20 as World Refugee Day and this year appealed to participants to “take a step with refugees around the world.” 

War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are the main causes of refugees fleeing their countries, with two-thirds of all exiles worldwide coming from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Cox’s Bazar — site of the world’s largest refugee settlement — observed the day with programs and festivities, although there is still no sign of an end to the Rohingya plight. 

A colorful rally at Kutupalang camp was attended by US envoy Earl Miller, UNHCR country representative Steven Corliss and government officials. Later, dignitaries met with Rohingya community leaders and discussed their demands. 

About 750,000 Rohingya have fled their northern Rakhine homeland since August 2017 when a so-called “clearance operation” orchestrated by the Myanmar military forced them to take shelter at Kutupalang camps in Cox’s Bazar. 

In 1977 and 1978, about 200,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar. 

Between 1989 and 1991, an additional 250,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh when a military crackdown followed a popular uprising and Burma was renamed Myanmar. In 1992, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on a repatriation deal that led to thousands of Rohingya returning to Rakhine. 

The Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh resumed in 2016 when a military crackdown followed an attack on a border post in which several police offers were killed. About 87,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh. 

A repatriation deal was signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in late 2017, but not a single Rohingya returned. 

Finally, Nov. 15, 2018, was agreed as the new date to start repatriation, but the Rohingya said that conditions made it impossible for them to return. 

Recent violence in Rakhine between the Myanmar military and a militant Buddhist group has cast fresh doubts on the refugees returning in the near future. 

The Rohingya exodus has changed the demographic of Ukhia and Teknaf subdistricts of Cox’s Bazar. 

In 2011, around 500,000 people lived in the two areas. Now more than double that number of Rohingya refugees shelter there, turning the host community into a minority. 

The Bangladesh government and UN aid agencies together asked for $920 million to run humanitarian operations in the camps this year. But only a quarter of this amount has been raised. 

Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said that authorities are hoping for an increase in funding in coming days. 

“Some big donors such as the EU, UK, Japan and so on are yet to come up with their pledges. I believe it will happen soon and humanitarian operations here at Cox’s Bazar will not decline,” he told Arab News.