Jakarta floods kill 17 and force thousands to flee

By Niniek Karmini, Associated Press

Severe flooding and landslides triggered by torrential rain in Indonesia’s capital have killed 17 people and displaced tens of thousands.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 169 neighbourhoods in greater Jakarta and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on the city’s outskirts, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said.

The floods inundated thousands of homes and buildings and forced authorities to cut off electricity and water and paralysed transport networks, Mr Wibowo said. He said more than 31,000 people were in temporary shelters after floodwaters reached as high as 2.5 metres in places.

A woman passes food containers to a neighbor on the second floor of their houses (AP/Dita Alangkara)

Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusumah domestic airport reopened after operations were suspended when flood water submerged its runway. Nearly 20,000 passengers had been affected by the closure.

Residents of Bekasi on Jakarta’s outskirts waded through water up to their necks or floated on makeshift rafts carrying clothes and other salvaged possessions. Some scrambled onto roofs to await rescue from soldiers and emergency workers in rubber dinghies.

Social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara said the government dispatched medical teams and rubber rafts to the worst-hit areas, while rescuers in boats delivered instant noodles and rice to those who chose to stay on the upper floors of their homes.

The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.

A woman swims in flood water to reach higher ground (AP/Dita Alangkara)

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.

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.

Mr Widodo told reporters in Jakarta that one of the causes of flooding is due to damage to the ecosystem and ecology in addition to many people who throw litter into rivers.

He said that the government is working to mitigate and prevent flooding in regions across the country. Especially in Jakarta, the construction of West Java’s Cimahi and Ciawi dams is expected to be completed by next year.

“Both the central and regional governments would work together to solve the problem,” Mr Widodo said.