Jakarta’s most intense flash floods since record-keeping began more than 20 years ago have killed at least 60 people and displaced more than 400,000.
“The rain falling on New Year’s Eve in the western and northern parts of [Java Island, Indonesia’s most populated] was very extreme,” Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said in a release. “This rain is not ordinary rain.”
As a result, tens of thousands of people in the Indonesia capital “were still unable to return to their waterlogged homes” Agence France-Presse reported. “On Tuesday, parts of the city recorded more than a foot of rain,” the New York Times added, citing the meteorological agency. “The rain persisted on Wednesday and more was predicted [last] week for the metro area, one of Asia’s largest urban districts and home to more than 30 million people.”
Bloomberg said a large proportion of the evacuees were from Bekasi, east of the city.
“Around Jakarta, more than 170,000 people took refuge in shelters across the massive urban conglomeration after whole neighbourhoods were submerged,” AFP wrote. But meanwhile, “a family that included a four- and a nine-year-old died of suspected gas poisoning from a portable power generator, while an eight-year-old boy was killed in a landslide,” the news agency added. “Others died from drowning or hypothermia, while one 16-year-old boy was electrocuted by a power line.”
On Thursday, National Search and Rescue Agency Operations Director Budi Purnama said rescue workers were contending with city streets turned into rushing rivers. “The water discharge is very fast, the current is so strong that it even pushes parked vehicles.”
On Friday, the Indonesian government said it would begin seeding clouds west of the capital in hope of preventing more rain. Meanwhile, “the health ministry has said it deployed 11,000 health workers and soldiers to distribute medicine, hygiene kits, and food in a bid to stave off outbreaks of Hepatitis A, mosquito-borne Dengue fever, and other illnesses, including infections linked to contact with dead animals.”
In the hard-hit community of Lebak, government minister Muhadjir Effendy pledged assistance to rebuild schools and put up temporary bridges, and said the government is looking to civil society organizations to help with “trauma healing”.
The Times notes that “about 40% of Jakarta lies below sea level, and the authorities have tried for years to alleviate flooding. Ordinary rains can swamp neighbourhoods, as illegally dug wells and climate change have caused the city to sink faster than any other big city in the world.” In response, the government unveiled plans last year to relocate the nation’s capital to East Kalimantan Province, on the island of Borneo.
Wellian Wiranto, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation in Singapore, said the cost of the flooding could reach 16 trillion rupiah ($1.15 billion) and drive up inflation. “While the government may be even more keen to shift its capital city now, the flood is a reminder that the host of issues facing Jakarta…remain acute,” he wrote Friday.