Flooding brings more misery to Jakarta's poor
Poor residents living near the Ciliwung River, which flows through the Indonesian capital, are no strangers to flooding, but Thursday's inundation was especially severe. "My house is flooded 3 metres deep," said Endah Riani, sitting in a makeshift shelter on the side of the road, clutching her 3-year-old son. "I could only salvage my television and important documents," the 31-year-old housewife said. "The rest is gone."
Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2013
Days of heavy rain have caused flooding in much of Jakarta in the past three days, leaving more than 10,000 people displaced. At least two people have been electrocuted. The street in Riani's central Jakarta neighbourhood was lined with refrigerators, cupboards and other home appliances rescued from floodwaters. Children begged for handouts from motorists.
Jakartans living in shantytowns along Ciliwung have long bore the brunt of flooding. In 2007, the area was underwater, said Tamimi Imran, a local neighbourhood chief. "It was six years since the last big flooding, and we were totally caught by surprise," said Imran, whose flooded 25-square-meter shack housed eight people. "It happened so fast, and we didn't have much time to save our belongings," he said.
Authorities warned that the worse had yet to come and urged more than 100,000 residents whose houses were flooded to move to temporary shelters. "We expect more heavy rains until the end of January or even mid-February, so we must continue to be on alert," said Hariyadi, an official at the Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency who like many Indonesians uses only one name. The capital's traffic ground to a standstill while buses and train services stopped. "Our map shows that about 50 per cent of Jakarta is underwater, ranging from 25 centimetres to 4 metres," said Johan Freddy, an official at the National Disaster Management Agency.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's talks Thursday with Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner were delayed because the presidential palace was underwater just below knee height. Television footage showed Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa inspecting the flooding around the palace with their trousers rolled up. Some residents climbed to rooftops while waiting for rescuers.
The flooding was a test for newly elected Governor Joko Widodo, whose campaign promises included ending the capital's frequent inundations. Jakarta, 40 per cent of which is below sea level, is prone to flooding during the wet season. The 2007 flooding in Jakarta killed 57 people and forced more than 400,000 to leave their homes. Officials put total damage at nearly 695 million dollars. "It's fun," one of the children told Metro TV. "We can swim for free."