Floods affect thousands in Indonesia’s capital

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) — Floods that have crippled much of Indonesia’s capital worsened yesterday, inundating thousands of homes and buildings, including the presidential palace, and paralysing transport networks, officials and witnesses said.

Overnight rains caused more rivers to burst their banks in greater Jakarta starting last Sunday, sending muddy water up to 1.5 metres deep into more residential and commercial areas, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesman Agus Wibowo.

Floodwaters entered parts of Indonesia’s presidential palace complex yesterday morning but the situation was brought under control with water pumps, said an official at the Presidential Office Bey Machmudin.

The heavy downpour that hit the capital last Sunday had submerged the state-run Cipto Mangunkusumo hospital, the country’s largest hospital, damaging medical machines and equipment, Wibowo said.

Wibowo said the floods yesterday inundated scores of districts and left more than 300 people homeless, forced authorities to cut off electricity and paralysed transportation, including commuter lines, as floodwaters reached as high as 1.5 metres in places.

Students wade through waters at a flooded neighbourhood in Jakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP

Television footage showed soldiers and rescuers in rubber boats struggling to evacuate children and the elderly who were holding out on the roofs of their squalid houses.

Indonesia’s meteorological agency is predicting rain for the next two weeks.

The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.

Jakarta is home to 10 million people, with a total of 30 million in its greater metropolitan area.

It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of groundwater. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy USD6.5 billion a year.

President Joko Widodo announced last August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.