Nine dead as New Year revellers caught in flooding in Indonesia’s capital

By Niniek Karmini, Associated Press

Severe flooding hit Indonesia’s capital as residents were celebrating the new year, killing at least nine people, displacing thousands and forcing the closure of a domestic airport.

Tens of thousands of revellers were soaked by torrential rain in Jakarta as they waited for New Year’s Eve fireworks.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said monsoon rain and rising rivers had submerged at least 90 neighbourhoods and triggered a landslide in Depok, a city on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Mr Wibowo said the dead included a 16-year-old high school student who was electrocuted.

Rescuers evacuate residents in Jatibening on the outskirts of Jakarta (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

More than 19,000 people were in temporary shelters after floodwater reached up to 10ft (3m) in several places.

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan told reporters after conducting an aerial survey over the flooded city that as much as 370 millimetres (14.5in) of rainfall – more than three times the average amount – was recorded in Jakarta and West Java’s hilly areas during New Year’s Eve, resulting in the Ciliwung and Cisadane rivers overflowing.

He said about 120,000 rescuers had been deployed to evacuate those affected and install mobile water pumps as more downpours were forecast in coming days.

Authorities warned flooding was possible until April, when the rainy season ends.

He vowed his city administration would complete projects on the two rivers, including a dam and a sluice, to prevent flooding.

Television footage and photos released by the agency showed dozens of cars floating in muddy water, while soldiers and rescuers in rubber boats were struggling to evacuate children and the elderly who were stranded on the roofs of their squalid houses.

A man carrying a boy wades through floodwater (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

The floods inundated thousands of homes and buildings in poor and wealthy districts alike, forcing authorities to cut off electricity and water supplies and paralysing transport networks, Mr Wibowo said.

Director-general of civil aviation Polana Pramesti said the flooding also submerged the runway at Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusumah domestic airport, which had to be closed, stranding some 19,000 passengers.

Flooding also highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems as it tries to attract foreign investment.

Jakarta is home to 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area.

It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy 6.5 billion US dollars (£4.9 billion) a year.

President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.