Indonesia flood rescuers hunt for missing after 43 killed

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesian rescuers mounted a desperate search yesterday for those missing after flash floods and landslides sparked by torrential rains killed at least 43 people across the Jakarta region while health authorities raced to prevent disease outbreaks.

Around a dozen people were still unaccounted for after record rains that started on New Year’s Eve pounded the capital and left swathes of the megalopolis, home to some 30 million, under water and with thousands homeless.

Around 192,000 residents have been evacuated to temporary shelters, according to authorities, with many unable to return to waterlogged homes in neighbourhoods turned into wastelands of debris and overturned cars.

“We’re encouraging people whose houses are still inundated to go to a safer place,” said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo.

The agency said 43 people had been confirmed dead in Greater Jakarta and neighbouring Lebak regency in the south of Java island.

Waters had receded in many areas and power, which had been shut off across many districts, was being restored.

In hard-hit Bekasi, on the outskirts of the city, swampy streets were littered with debris and crushed cars lying on top of each other – with waterline marks reaching as high as buildings’ second floors.

The government said yesterday it would start cloud seeding to the west of the capital – inducing rain using chemicals sprayed from planes – to prevent approaching rainfall from pounding the region.

Using inflatable boats to evacuate residents trapped in their homes, including children and seniors, rescuers said they were targeting the hardest-hit areas of the city yesterday.

Shelters filled up with many refugees, including infants, resting on thin mats as food and drinking water ran low.

“It’s impossible for me to go back to my home,” said 72-year-old Lumongga Siregar.