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Heavy rain displaces 10,000 in Jakarta

Publication Date : 17-01-2013


Heavy rain drenching parts of Indonesia's capital city has driven at least 10,000 people from their homes and was blamed for at least nine deaths in Jakarta and surrounding cities alone, as residents braced themselves for more strong winds, rain and flooding.

Six people in Bogor died after a landslide buried 10 houses and a mosque on Tuesday during a heavy downpour.

That same night, two construction workers in South Jakarta died when their makeshift shelters collapsed, and a teenager drowned when a river overflowed and engulfed his house in West Jakarta.

Flooding also swept houses away, overturned ships, tied up traffic, cut off food supplies and claimed lives in other parts of the archipelago.

"Among the worst hit is Banten and South Sulawesi as floods there are worse than in the same period last year," says Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency's (BNPB) chief spokesman.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, three fishermen died when their boat capsized while in seas off Central Java. Two crewmen of another cargo ship were killed when it overturned while nine others were missing.

Dr Sutopo said thousands of Jakarta residents loaded their belongings on tyres or anything else they could find to float on while waiting for help.

"Our aim in this is to save (more) lives," he said, noting that the military, police and others had joined a search and rescue effort.

Floods are a perennial problem at this time of year because of torrential rain from the monsoon season and shifting winds.

With 40 per cent of Jakarta below sea level and 13 rivers flowing through the city, its weak drainage system is hard-pressed to cope with severe weather.

"We are in a bad weather patch now due to the extraordinary effects of tropical storm Narelle in the seas near Bali," says Mulyono Rahadi, chief of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

But he said a reprieve might be on the way. "The effects should ease over the next few days by later this week because the weather system is moving towards Australia."

In Jakarta alone, Dr Sutopo of the BNPB says strong wind felled 81 trees, damaging cars and houses on Saturday last week.

The Ciujung river, which flows from Banten, spilled over onto a major toll road. That caused a massive 9km traffic jam of delivery trucks late last week.

Losses are still being counted but some estimates put it at 60 million rupiah (US$6,200) a day.

Other ports also saw ships stranded, causing fruits and vegetables to go bad and cutting off food supplies to those in the remote islands.

But not all residents were counting their losses. Some were seen charging truck drivers stalled along the Merak toll road 200,000 rupiah for faster passage.

In West Jakarta, a group of residents blocked two lanes to allow traffic to go in the opposite direction - for a fee of 17,000 rupiah. Others charged stranded people for water taxi services - instead of helping to rescue them.

Henri Salim, 36, a business consultant, was disgusted. "Some of us Indonesians always find ways to make money, but this is like extortion and it's annoying," he said. "You're stuck and instead of being civic-minded, they see only money!"

US$1 = 9,600 rupiah


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