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
Clearer skies brought some relief
on Monday, and witnesses said floodwaters were receding in several areas while
levels at key rivers were dropping.
Indonesian man wade through their flooded neighborhood Sunday
Feb. 4, 2007 in Jakarta, Indonesia. At least 20 people have been killed
and 200,000 forced from their homes by floods in Indonesia's capital, an
official said Sunday, as rivers overflowing from four days of rain
inundated the city. [AP]
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
"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.
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,
"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.