11/22/2021, 17.20
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Catholic solidarity brings aid to flood victims in Sintang

by Mathias Hariyadi

Dozens of houses in six districts of the diocese have been flooded and more than 245 hectares of farmland submerged. About 54,000 people have been affected, including 12,000 displaced. Some 11 churches have become unusable. Bishop Samuel Oton Sidin launches an appeal for aid in response to the emergency. President Jokowi speaks of “extreme” rainfall.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – After several weeks, the emergency triggered by heavy floods in the Diocese of Sintang (West Kalimantan) shows no sign of abating.

Some entire areas are under water. In some parts of the districts of Sintang and Kapuas Hulu, the water level has reached two metres. Flooding has not spared Melawi district.

According to a report by Caritas Indonesia, at least 24 sub-districts have been affected since floods began on 21 October. Heavy rains continue to hinder aid distribution to the most affected families.

Victor Emanuel, a parishioner of Sintang Cathedral and a lecturer at the Sintang Kapuas University, spoke to AsiaNews about the situation.

Dozens of houses in six districts of the diocese have been flooded, he said, and more than 245 hectares of cultivated land lie submerged.  Nearly 54,000 people have been affected in various ways, including about 12,000 forced into temporary shelters and 13,000 students unable to go to school. A total of 11 churches have become unusable.

The current situation, Victor Emanuel explained, is like the devastating flood of 1963 in terms of areas affected and the extent of the emergency.

In light of the situation, various religious congregations and lay groups in the Archdiocese of Pontianak have launched a campaign to collect and distribute humanitarian aid.

Last week, the local prelate, Archbishop Agustinus Agus, personally oversaw the delivery of some lorries containing basic necessities.

Amid the crisis, Bishop Samuel Oton Sidin of Sintang has appealed to Indonesian Catholics to help aid operations for the thousands of people still in need.

Sister Kresentia Yati, a member of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Saint Anthony in Pontianak, responded to the appeal by organising a food collection among local donors, to be sent to people who need help.

Aid is carried by rented lorries, with travel time of more than 10 hours to reach the final destination, often in very difficult conditions, including motor boats as the only means to reach the remotest and hard-to-get areas.

The Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret, for their part, opened their doors to the displaced and the homeless.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo also spoke about the crisis triggered by the floods, noting that the main cause was the massive damage done to the local rain catchment area.

In his view, exceptional weather conditions with extreme rainfall combined with local environmental degradation are to blame for the current crisis. To remedy the situation, he announced reforestation plans for the region to help the ground absorb excess water.

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