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Yudhoyono declares state of emergency as flooding worsens in Jakarta

Tanah Abang railway station looked like a swimming pool as floodwater submerged the railway tracks. Photo by P.J. Leo/The Jakarta Post

Publication Date : 18-01-2013

 

The worst floods to hit Jakarta since 2007 are expected to get even worse when the city is buffeted by monsoon rains this weekend, according to officials.

Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono announced on Thursday that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had raised the emergency level for Jakarta to “alert” (siaga), the highest level.

“The warning level will remain elevated until conditions improve in Jakarta,” Agung told reporters after a meeting at Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s office with officials from relevant ministries and state agencies.

“Current weather reports say the bad weather is going to stay for the next few days. We need to keep our eyes open,” Agung added.

The alert status authorises the central government and city administration to take maximum measures to assist flood victims, including the deployment of the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI).

“The central government and the city administration assure the people that we can and will handle the disaster,” Agung said.

Afterwards, Jokowi declared a state of emergency in the capital until January 27, vowing to take action to prevent flooding after the current situation was under control.

The governor said that the emergency decree gave the administration the authority to make quick decisions. “We can, for example, hold a procurement without having to go through the tender process.”

Jakarta was paralysed on Thursday after a prolonged downpour caused the Ciliwung River to overflow, leading to massive flooding that inundated the capital’s main thoroughfares and landmarks, halted traffic and brought public services to a halt.

The intense rainfall, according to the Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), was attributed to the arrival of the Asian monsoon, which is expected to affect many parts of the nation over the next three days.

Mulyono Prabowo, meteorology publication chief at the BMKG, was forecasting medium to heavy rain at night until Saturday, with the potential for more intense storms in the week ahead.

Hours of intense rainfall over the last several days in Jakarta and upstream in Bogor, West Java, brought the water level at the Manggarai sluice in South Jakarta, the city’s key flooding bellwether, to 1,030 centimetres on Thursday, exceeding the highest risk level of 950 centimetres.

The sluice directs runoff from the Ciliwung River to the West Flood Canal. Authorities were forced to open the sluice on Thursday to avoid bursting the canal, leading the river to inundate the tony Menteng area of South Jakarta as well as the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta.

Despite that drastic action, a 50-metre section of the canal near Jl. Latuharhari in Menteng gave way later in the morning, flooding nearby railway tracks, Jl. Teluk Betung and the main arteries of the Sudirman Central Business District, Jl. Jend. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin.

Officials say that at least 15,423 people have taken refuge at 68 evacuation centres as of Thursday night and more than 114,000 people were affected by flooding in 73 subdistricts across the capital.

Vast swaths of nearby Depok, West Java, were also inundated.

The Jakarta Police said that at least 14 people have died in flood related drownings, landslides or electrocutions in Greater Jakarta since Tuesday.

“We advise citizens to be aware of the situation in their environment and avoid activities where they might drown. If water starts to inundate your house, turn off the electricity immediately,” spokesperson Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said.

Rikwanto said people should look to the police’s Traffic Management Centre and the media for accurate information and be wary of reports on Twitter and other social media websites.

Knee-deep inundation led the Corruption Eradication Commission to evacuate several high-profile graft suspects and convicts from its detention centre in the basement of its headquarters on Jl. HR Rasuna Said in South Jakarta.

Among the evacuees were Miranda S. Goeltom, former Bank Indonesia deputy governor; Neneng Sri Wahyuni, the wife of graft convict Muhammad Nazaruddin; and politically wired business tycoon Hartati Murdaya.

 

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