Flash floods and mudslides resulting from torrential rains that started Saturday, March 16, 2019, destroyed hundreds of properties and left more than 80 people dead and at least 150 people injured in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua. Worst hit is the northeastern town of Sentani, near the provincial capital of Jayapura.
Authorities expected the death toll to rise as search-and-rescue efforts were still ongoing as of this report. Emergency response teams were having difficulty reaching local residents, especially in areas submerged in high water and mud. Flash floods and mudslides left bridges and major roads destroyed, making it difficult to reach hard-hit areas. According to local reports, more than 4,000 people had to move to evacuation areas.
Adventists Also Affected
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Papua is not exempt from the devastation brought about by the flooding and mud slides.
Leaders of Adventist Aviation Indonesia (AAI), a service institution owned and operated by the Adventist Church in Indonesia that provides transportation, communications, and logistical support for front-line missions and Papua Adventist Academy, reported immense devastation from the disaster.
“Everyone staying on [the school] campus is safe, including our families. But it is unlikely for thousands of people who were washed out during the flood,” Darron Boyd, evangelism coordinator of the Adventist Church in Papua, wrote in an email.
“One of our AAI mechanics broke a leg while trying to escape the surge,” Boyd wrote. “He suffered severe cuts on his leg as well.”
Despite the disastrous flooding, AAI pilot Gary Roberts reported, all AAI staff are safe.
“The new hangar was flooded, but it is still standing. The airplane inside is also safe,” Roberts said. Speaking of a new plane recently acquired by AAI, he said, “The PK-TCA is with me in Yahukimo during the weekend, sparing it from the flash flood’s devastation.”
Roberts added that two homes of AAI workers were completely destroyed and that items inside the hangar are severely damaged. One aircraft belonging to Cendrawasih Air that was parked in AAI’s old hangar for maintenance was washed out to the nearby main road.
Leaders of the Adventist Church in the Southern Asia-Pacific region asked for prayers, particularly for the affected families, and for the church’s work, which is significantly affected by the disaster.
ADRA Steps Up
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Indonesia came to the flooded area to assess the situation. ADRA workers were working closely with local government units in Papua to identify the primary necessities that the agency could supply to the affected communities.
Local government officials reported that flood waters were subsiding but residents should not leave the evacuation areas because fallen trees and large rocks were obstructing roads and bridges.
In Doyo, a community 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) from Sentani, rocks rolled down from a nearby mountain, damaging a housing complex. Uprooted trees and boulders were scattered across muddy roads, making transportation a challenge for emergency response teams. Power and communication lines were down, resulting in communication hurdles.
ADRA identified the immediate needs as food, emergency shelters, water, and first aid kits.
Indonesia is a country located on the so-called Ring of Fire, a string of volcanoes and seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean. An archipelago with 17,000 islands, Indonesia is one of the most natural-disaster-prone nations on earth.