Apriadi Gunawan, Tebing Tinggi, North Sumatra – A swell of water 2 meters deep flooded thousands of houses in Tebing Tinggi city, North Sumatra over the weekend, blocking the roads connecting up to three regencies and cities in the area.
Torrential rainfall since Friday caused the Padang River in Tebing Tinggi to overflow, submerging nearby houses and streets. The water had not receded by Sunday.
The flooding also caused hundreds of kilometers of traffic gridlock from Tebing Tinggi all the way to Serdang Bedagai and Batubara regencies.
Motorists have had to spend upwards of seven hours to escape the traffic.
Khairul, a resident of Medan, said his car was stuck in traffic due to the flooding. He said it was one of the worst traffic jams he had ever encountered in the province.
Khairul started driving out of Batubara regency at 8 p.m. on Saturday and finally got out of gridlock on the toll road in Serdang Bedagai at 4.35 a.m. on Sunday.
"I have never encountered this kind of snaking traffic jam that takes hours [to escape]. We needed about eight hours to get through it," Khairul told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi said heavy rainfall had destroyed up to 50 m of the Padang River's embankments and flooded the Tanjung Marulak area in Tebing Tinggi city. However, he conceded the riverbed had been very shallow and susceptible to flooding.
Up to 25,297 people from the 10,000 families residing in the districts of Hulu, Padang Hilir, Rambutan, Bajenis and Tebing Tinggi Kota were affected by the flooding.
"This is the largest flood that has occurred in Tebing Tinggi, but no one has died," Edy said on Saturday.
He added that the provincial administration would evaluate the cause of the flood in Tebing Tinggi and introduce efforts to restore the riverbanks if needed.
"We will coordinate our [efforts] with various agencies to handle the flooding," Edy said, adding that COVID-19 health protocols must still be followed.
With the onset of the wet season in October, many inland areas are prone to flooding, including areas with weak infrastructure for disaster mitigation in place.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) projected that nearly 40 percent of the 342 seasonal zones across the country will experience rainfall beginning in November.
Most of Indonesia is expected to see the peak of the rainy season in January and February 2021, the BMKG said in September.
Meanwhile, Tebing Tinggi Mayor Umar Zunaidi Hasibuan said the Padang River's restoration was the bare minimum in terms of precautionary measures that must be taken to mitigate flooding.
The city, he said, would start dredging the river and repair or construct damaged embankment walls to be higher than before.
"We will do that to prevent another flood from happening again," Umar said.
The city administration, along with the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police, has also already set up 56 temporary posts for displaced residents.
The mayor said all victims of the flood had been evacuated to safety shelters, thanks in part to the fact that villages' access to outside help had not been hindered.
"We have the situation under control and the [displaced] victims of the flooding evacuated to safe spaces," he said. (ami)