Jakarta flood clean-up could take months

Updated: 2007-02-11 16:35

More Indonesians began clearing mud and debris from flood-damaged homes on Sunday after days of relatively dry weather, but for many it could be one or two months before they can actually move back into their houses.

At the height of the flooding that began more than a week ago, officials reported over 400,000 people displaced by the high water in the Jakarta metropolitan area of 14 million.

By Sunday estimates had declined to 77,196 for Jakarta proper and a combined total of 218,583 for nearby West Java and Banten provinces, which stretch well beyond greater Jakarta.

However, for tens of thousands still in cramped and sometimes unsanitary temporary shelters, the wait to return home could be lengthy.

In one South Jakarta neighbourhood some 30 policemen worked

with residents on Sunday to clean up mud one to two metres deep left inside their houses by the floods, which began with torrential rains more than a week ago.

"It is impossible for the residents to return to their homes (to live) soon. The mud is piled too high inside," Jakarta police officer Sukadi told Reuters by telephone.

"There is nothing left here in our house. Everything is soaked in the mud," said resident Uki, 28.

He and his family were evacuated a week earlier to the nearest shelter.

Some people faced worse problems. In the suburban area of Tangerang, water was still two-metres deep in some places and had turned black, causing skin diseases and diarrhoea, Yus, the chief of the neighbourhood unit, told Elshinta news radio.

He added that officials lacked boats to get stranded people to safer areas, although some residents had made rafts from scrap material.

"We really need rubber boats to help evacuate the people here," Yus said.

Estimates of deaths from the floods vary. The national disaster coordination agency put the figure at 48 on Sunday for Jakarta alone, while one newspaper said another 32 people had died in West Java and Banten, which would make the total 80.

Fears lingered that disease could spread as people stay in cramped emergency shelters or move back into houses often lacking clean water and working plumbing and power.

Authorities are on guard for diarrhoea, cholera and skin diseases, among other illnesses.

The rainy season has several weeks left to run.

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