Indonesia’s Sidoarjo Regency was hit by several tornadoes in October, with the latest one on October 23 destroying 631 houses and seriously injuring four residents. Schools, health centers, hotels and restaurants suffered substantial damages and had to close down. The four seriously injured residents were reportedly hit by fallen trees and believed to be still in hospitals.
The Regent of Sidoarjo, Ahmad Muhdlor, said the government is rushing to distribute emergency supplies to victims but disbursement of financial aid to repair damaged properties is still pending the outcome of a survey.
Muhdlor said: “We will provide evacuation and emergency shelters for victims. In Mlaten Village, for example, we have added two more shelters. We also make sure all shelters are hygienic and clean as we don’t want people to get sick. Health and comfort are our priority. Also, we have ensured there are enough food and drinks available. We are preparing 3,000 rice boxes to cater to three meals a day, every day.”
Suharso, a victim, said to Maritime Fairtrade he has not received the most important assistance yet. It is help to rebuild his damaged house. “Indeed, when it comes to food for the victims, it is more than enough. However, our immediate and most urgent priority is to be able to repair our home as fast as possible and not stay in a broken house waiting for the government to finish their data collection on damaged houses. Therefore, we need cash and construction materials now.
“I wonder why the government is so inflexible and bureaucratic. The government should listen to and act on the victims’ concern. A number of officials, from mid-level to the deputy regent have visited us. It is not that we are ungrateful. I appreciate the food packages but I need to repair our house.
“For victims staying in shelters, whose houses suffered major damages and are not inhabitable, they want to return home, even though the shelters are comfortable, and for us who are still able to stay in our damaged houses, we all want to repair our houses as fast as possible. The rich are already repairing their houses because they have money. The cost varies between IDR 5 million (US$320) and IDR 10 million.
“We are poor. How can we afford to pay such a big sum of money upfront? Without this disaster, we were already struggling to make a living and have a lot of debt. Now the tornado has made it worse for us. We really need the government to give us cash and construction materials.”
Jazilul, another victim, said he is annoyed with all the politicking and politicizing of the disaster. “The campaign teams of several presidential candidates of the 2024 election visited us. They said they only give us aid if we vote for them.”
The National Awakening Party (PKB) called out Muhdlor’s government for its slow response in helping with rebuilding. Abdillah Nasih, a PKB politician, said he was surprised by the slow action: “Why do they take so long in gathering data? Why must the process be so complicated? The victims need immediate help with their damaged houses. It is as simple as that.”
Nasih said in his memory, nothing like this has ever happened in Sidoarjo Regency before. When there was a tornado a few years ago, it only took three days for house repair aid to be distributed to the victims.
The current Sidoarjo Regency Regional People’s Representative Council (DPRD) said they have not received the full details of all the victims yet. A source within the Sidoarjo Regency Government, who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Maritime Fairtrade the reason behind the delay is due to a lack of budget. As the disaster happened towards the end of the year, where traditionally, the budget is depleted, officials are now scrambling to find additional fund for disaster relief.
“A few days ago, the Sidoarjo Regency Government had received IDR 250 million from the Surabaya City Government,” the source said.
Top photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo. A damaged hotel.