The Flood

News of Indonesia rarely reaches the U.S. unless something sensational like executions or elections happen. For this reason, I doubt that the disaster that afflicted my home here last week made the news overseas. Bangka island and Pangkal Pinang — the provincial capital and my home here in Indo — experiences the worst flood in living memory. The closest comparison was in 1986, before any of my students were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.

PKP's streets became canals last week.
PKP’s streets became canals last week. This photo is taken from Facebook.
Photos of the damage are all over social media.
Photos of the damage are all over social media.

As I mentioned in my last post, our house is on top of a hill which means that thankfully we were not victims of this severe flooding. Some of our neighbors at the bottom of the hill and many other people throughout the island were not so lucky.

Last weekend (the one before Valentine’s Day) was wet. It rained nonstop starting Friday afternoon. Sometimes it was a light sprinkle, barely a mist. Other times it was a torrential downpour that lashed at our roof and reached across the open (but locked) front door to spread out on the tile floor. I stayed in all weekend.

Monday February 8th was a national holiday for Chinese New Year. The rain put a damper on some of the celebrations, though Caitlin and I still made it out to Manggo’s aunt and uncle’s house party to celebrate. On the way to their house, we saw the start of the flood. Some houses we passed were already knee-deep in water. People were out in the streets. Some were sitting in chairs, watching the water lap around their worldly possessions. The drizzle continued.

Not much can be done about the flood water. Photo taken from Ibu Evi's Facebook.
Not much can be done about the flood water. Photo taken from Ibu Evi’s Facebook.

The party was nice–it reminded me of being a kid at big family gatherings where you don’t know everyone and you end up sticking close to the cousins who are familiar faces. During the clean-up after the guests had left there was a blackout, which affected a lot of the city. We finished the job in candlelight. On the way home, many of the streets were dark and full of people seeking a dry place to stay for the night. Thus the flood disruptions began.

Photos like this one started pouring in all over Facebook.
Photos like these started pouring in all over Facebook.

Tuesday morning the downpour continued. I asked my friend to drive me to school in his car, but when we got to school the grounds were deserted save for two teachers standing by the front gate in ponchos. Class was cancelled due to the rain.

A view from the bridge on the way back home from school. One of my friend's houses is submerged behind the tree on the left. What's more is this lake/river became nothing but cracked mud during the peak of the dry season. It must be hard to plan infrastructure with dramatic weather changes like this.
A view from the bridge on the way back home from school. One of my friend’s houses is submerged behind the tree on the left. What’s more is this lake/river became nothing but cracked mud during the peak of the dry season. It must be hard to plan infrastructure with dramatic weather changes like this.

Later that day, I went with Caitlin on a quest to a Samsung store. What we found instead was major flooding in the main street of downtown Pangkal Pinang. What follows are pictures from the adventure (for lack of a better word) that ensued. All photos are credit to Caitlin.

Arriving on the scene in downtown Pangkal Pinang. Crowds and relief stations amassed around the flooded grounds of alun-alun, the central park of PKP. Some people were victims, others just wanted to come see and take stock of the damage for themselves.
Arriving on the scene in downtown Pangkal Pinang. Crowds and relief stations amassed around the flooded grounds of alun-alun, the central park of PKP. Some people were victims, others just wanted to come see and take stock of the damage for themselves.
At the edge of the floodwater in downtown. Caitlin and I decided to wade into it and see our poor city underwater.
At the edge of the floodwater in downtown. Caitlin and I decided to wade into it and see our poor city underwater.
One of our favorite hangout spots, King Kong Kopitiam, looks like it was spared from major flooding.
One of our favorite hangout spots, King Kong Kopitiam, looks like it was spared from major flooding. The guy flashing the thumbs up asked us to take this picture.
The road next to Kingkong Kopitiam is bordered by a canal, which overflowed and turned into a dangerous current. Notice the guy on the left casually smoking a cigarette. At least his lighter was dry.
The road next to Kingkong Kopitiam is bordered by a canal, which overflowed and turned into a dangerous current. Notice the guy on the left casually smoking a cigarette. At least his lighter was dry….
Someone strung a rope across the flooded road to keep people from getting swept down by the current.
Someone strung a rope across the flooded road to keep people from getting knocked down by the current.
Many kids seemed to be having a ball playing in the water. Meanwhile, grown-ups busied themselves with evacuation and recovery efforts.
Many kids seemed to be having a ball playing in the water. Meanwhile, grown-ups (like the Coast Guards in the background) busied themselves with evacuation and disaster relief.
More military types coming into the flood waters to help with relief efforts.
More military types coming into the flood waters to help with relief efforts.
Caitlin and I were pretty out of place, wading through the flood water. Once the water got past our knees we were the only women around. And of course we are the only foreigners, which attracted a lot of attention and requests for photos (of people in the flood, not with us for once).
Caitlin and I were pretty out of place wading through the flood water. Once the water got past our knees we were the only women around. And of course we are the only foreigners, which attracted a lot of attention and requests for photos (of people in the flood, not with us for once).
Down this street you can see the back of the police truck and a raft full of people being evacuated from the chest-deep water down the street.
Down this street you can see the back of the police truck and a raft full of people being evacuated from the chest-deep water down the street.
While some people were taking to the water to be evacuated, others were having a bit of a holiday.
While some people were taking to the water to be evacuated, others were having a bit of a holiday.
Same here. If I didn't have my tablet in my purse at the time (poor planning and a bad idea, I know) I would have wanted to join these guys to be quite honest.
Same here. If I didn’t have my tablet in my purse at the time (poor planning and a bad idea, I know) I would have wanted to join these guys to be quite honest.
Fun times in inner tubes or not, the strength of the water is not to be underestimated. The median of the road in the main street of downtown was pretty well destroyed.
Fun times in inner tubes or not, the strength of the water is not to be underestimated. The median of the road in the main street of downtown was pretty well destroyed.
Amazingly, some people carried on, business as usual.
Amazingly, some people carried on business as usual.
Yours truly, wading ever deeper. We turned around once the water was up to our waists because Caitlin had her computer and I had my tablet with me. (Remember that we were going to the Samsung store before we knew the extent of the flood.)
Yours truly, wading ever deeper. We turned around once the water was up to our waists because Caitlin had her computer and I had my tablet with me. (Remember that we were going to the Samsung store before we knew the extent of the flood.)

Wednesday it kept raining on and off, but the flood waters finally started to recede a little. I went to school as usual, though there was no class again. We had a meeting about the flood and then were dismissed to go home and help our friends, family, and neighbors affected by the flood. Thursday we had class as usual, though only half of the students were at school. People whose homes had flooded did not have any dry clothes, let alone clean and ironed school uniforms. I even heard that some people’s houses were looted after the flood waters went down. Terrible.

Friday we did not have class again, but this time because we did a school-wide effort to clean up trash. I walked with students in class 10 IPS 2 (my homeroom because they are my first class on Monday) and we had a great time chatting in English and Bahasa Indonesia outside of the classroom setting. I only have this candid shot because our headmistress strictly forbid us from selfie-ing.

My wonderful students helping clean up trash left by the floodwaters and careless people.
My wonderful students helping clean up trash left by the floodwaters and careless people.
Some houses next to the canals that we passed on our way back to school. People's stuff is still strewn about all over town. It has not rained the past few days, so things are finally starting to dry, although mold is a big problem now (including in our house). You can also see the water line on the house that shows how high the water was.
Some houses next to the canals that we passed on our way back to school. People’s stuff is still strewn about all over town. It has not rained the past few days, so things are finally starting to dry, although mold is a big problem now (including in our house). You can also see the water line on the house that shows how high the water was.

Caitlin’s school also helped clean up on Friday. She had quite the adventure that involved riding in a garbage truck out to a desa [village] and later visiting a black magic man to find out who stole a teacher’s laptop that was left at school while everyone was at the clean-up effort. Maybe she can tell you more about this in her own blog post. But here are some pictures, used with permission:

Garbage is still piled up around the city. It'll take weeks to clean up this mess.
Garbage is still piled up around the city. It’ll take weeks to clean up this mess.
Heave, ho! The lovely (albeit stinky, on this particular day) Miss Kate took this photo from on top of the garbage truck.
Heave, ho! The lovely (albeit stinky, on this particular day) Miss Kate took this photo from on top of the garbage truck.
Ah, the glitz and glamour of being a Fulbright ETA. ;-) Love ya, Caitlin. Kinda wish I had ikut-ed on this one.
Ah, the glitz and glamour of being a Fulbright ETA. 😉 Love ya, Caitlin. Kinda wish I had ikut-ed on this one.
Roads out in the desa have literally been washed away.
Roads out in the desa have literally been washed away.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by the flood and I am so so so thankful that all of our friends and Indo-family are safe and sound at the end of this disaster.

 

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6 thoughts on “The Flood

  1. Thanks for sharing Kelly. Mother Nature is able to wreak havoc everywhere in the world. So glad that you are safe and the rains are slowing down. Despite horrible circumstances, the people of Indonesia help one another and are resilient in their efforts to get back to normal. Love, Mom

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  2. Kelly, thank you for the post. It is true that coverage of the flood on Banka is not shown here or on major news outlets. As you bear witness to this disaster, my heart goes out to these people as they struggle to cope. This will likely have a lasting impact on many peoples livelihoods and the local economy.
    Glad you are safe. Is there anything we can do?
    Love Dad

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  3. Kelly thanks for the update and all the pictures of the big flood! I as wondering how often this occurs. Quite a few people in the pics looked unfazed by the event. Best wishes to all there.
    I heard in the news that celebrating Valentines day is a big no-no in some Muslim countries. Were you able to distribute valentine wishes?
    Love,
    Aunt Betsy

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  4. I’m glad you’re safe and sound and in glad you didn’t go tubing with your tablet. What an adventure. One you won’t forget . The power of water is awesome and not to be underestimated . I hope you can help these folks out in any way possible. I know how water can destroy. So glad your house is on high ground. And I’m so pleased you have good friends and you’re enjoying your work. I was in jury duty today. I was not picked so I can go to work this week. You’re in our thoughts and conversation . And I love your blog and really appreciate a place I can both hear from you and respond without delay.
    Lots of love, uncle Dave F

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  5. Kelly, so happy you are safe and sound! We have not met, I am a friend of your wonderful uncle, David! One day, you must write a book about your experiences, later, there will be an incredibly wonderful movie. Stay well, and keep up the incredibly good work!
    Hugs, Paulette Carr

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