JAKARTA, INDONESIA - The death toll from floods in and around Indonesia’s capital rose to 53 Saturday as rescuers found more bodies amid receding floodwaters, disaster officials said.
Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged a dozen districts in greater Jakarta and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on the city’s outskirts as well as in neighboring Lebak, where a dozen people were buried.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said the fatalities also included those who had drowned or been electrocuted since rivers broke their banks early Wednesday after torrential rains throughout New Year’s Eve. Three elderly people died of hypothermia.
It was the worst flooding since 2007, when 80 people were killed when Jakarta was inundated by monsoon rains for 10 days.
Poor parts of city hit hardest
Four days after the region of 30 million people was struck by flashfloods, waters have receded in many middle-class districts, but conditions remained grim in narrow riverside alleys where the city’s poor live.
At the peak of the flooding, about 397,000 people sought refuge in shelters across the greater metropolitan area as floodwaters reached up to 6 meters (19 feet) in some places, Wibowo said. Data released by his agency showed about 173,000 people were still unable to return home, mostly in the hardest-hit area of Bekasi.
More than 152,000 people remain crammed into 98 emergency shelters with sufficient supplies in Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi, where rivers burst their banks. Much of the city was still submerged in muddy waters up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) high, according to the agency.
Those returning to their homes found streets covered in mud and debris. Cars that had been parked in driveways were swept away, landing upside down in parks or piled up in narrow alleys. Sidewalks were strewn with sandals, pots and pans and old photographs. Authorities took advantage of the receding waters to clear away mud and remove piles of wet garbage from the streets.
Electricity was restored to tens of thousands of residences and businesses.
Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma domestic airport reopened Thursday; its runway had been submerged.
Rain, flooding threat remains
The head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency Dwikorita Karnawati said more downpours were forecast for the capital in coming days and the potential for extreme rainfall will continue until next month across Indonesia.
The government Friday kicked off cloud seeding in an attempt to divert rain clouds from reaching greater Jakarta. Authorities warned that more flooding was possible until the rainy season ends in April.
The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.
Jakarta is home to 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking because of uncontrolled extraction of ground water. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.
President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.