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« Letter bomb explodes in London office; At least one employee injured in small blast in center of capital, police say | Main | Activists report on Nigeria corruption »

February 05, 2007

Floods kill 29, displace 340,000 in Indonesia; Between 40 and 70 percent of Jakarta inundated; more rain expected

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Horse-drawn carts rescued residents from flood-stricken districts in the Indonesian capital on Monday after flooding burst riverbanks, killing at least 29 people and forcing some 340,000 to flee their homes in recent days.

Updated: 1 hour, 36 minutes ago

Clearer skies brought some relief on Monday, and witnesses said floodwaters were receding in several areas while levels at key rivers were dropping.

However, large areas remained submerged under waist-high waters and officials warned that rain to the south, which causes rivers that flow into Jakarta to swell, might result in more flooding later in the day.

Authorities estimated that between 40 percent and 70 percent of the city, which spans an area of 412 square miles — about the size of San Antonio, Texas — had been inundated.

“We expect residents to stay alert because water may rise again and very fast,” said Sihar Simanjuntak, an official monitoring the many rivers that crisscross this city of 12 million people.

People living in one upscale area hired carts and horses to pull them to safety.

Anger at authorities
“The government is awful,” said Augustina Rusli, who for five days was trapped on the second floor of her house with her 10-month old baby, expecting the floods to be short-lived. “We have a neighbor who is sick with cancer but no one has come to rescue her.”

Jakarta’s heavily criticized governor said he could not be held responsible for the worst floods to hit the city in living memory, saying they were a “natural phenomenon” that occur every five years.

“There is no point in throwing abuse around,” Governor Sutiyoso, who goes by one name, told el-Shinta radio station. “I was up until 3 a.m. this morning trying to handle the refugees.”

Incessant rain that starting falling Thursday on Jakarta and the hills south of the city triggered the floods. Tens of thousands of homes, school and hospitals — in poor and wealthy districts alike — were inundated.

Two more weeks of rain expected
Indonesia’s meteorological agency has forecast rain for the next two weeks.

The government has dispatched medical teams on rubber rafts into the worst-hit districts amid fears that disease may spread among residents living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean drinking water.

As of Monday, 29 people had died, mostly by drowning or electrocution, officials said.

“We have to be alert for diseases like typhoid, those transmitted by rats and respiratory infections. Hopefully, there will be no dysentery,” said Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari. “We know it’s hard for the residents (to keep clean) under the circumstances, but they have to.”

Dr. Rustam Pakaya, from the Health Ministry’s crisis center, said nearly 340,000 people had been made homeless, many of whom were staying with friends or family or at mosques and government buildings.

Jakarta regularly floods, though not on this scale. Dozens of slum areas near rivers are washed out each year. Residents either refuse or are too poor to vacate the districts.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, where millions live in mountainous areas or near fertile plains.

Posted by Publisher at February 5, 2007 02:12 PM


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