Indonesian authorities battle floods in capital

  • Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 9:45 p.m.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Authorities were working Friday to repair a dike that collapsed amid floods that swamped the Indonesian capital as the waters gradually receded from the main streets of the teeming city.

But more monsoon rains were expected over Jakarta later Friday into Saturday, raising the prospect of fresh flooding, said Fadli, an official at the country’s meteorology agency who goes by a single name.

Jakarta, a low-lying city on the sea, has long been prone to floods, but their scale has become worse over the last 10 years as infrastructure development has not kept pace with the city’s growth. Other Southeast Asian cities, Bangkok and Manila especially, have also proved vulnerable to widespread floods in recent years.

Authorities said the death toll had risen to 11, most electrocuted or drowned. Police were searching for at least three other people reported missing in the flooded basement of a building in central Jakarta.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, from the city’s disaster mitigation agency, said electricity supplies had been cut to several areas to prevent electrocutions.

“Our focus now is to save more lives,” he said.

While life slowly got back to normal downtown, tens of thousands remained affected by the waters elsewhere in the city of 14 million people. The police and army deployed rubber boats to help evacuate or bring supplies to people, said Jakarta Police Spokesman Col. Rikwanto.

Elsewhere, hundreds of soldiers used backhoes to attempt to repair a collapsed canal dike that let floodwater pour into parts of downtown Jakarta on Thursday after hours of rains caused rivers and canals to burst their banks.

At their peak, almost 250,000 people were affected by the floods, which covered about 30 percent of the city. They were the most widespread to hit the city since 2007, when almost 80 died and more than half of the city as affected.

Unlike in 2007, Jakarta’s downturn area was swamped this time around.

Successive governments have done little to mitigate the threat of flooding, the latest made worse by heavy downpours Wednesday and Thursday that added pressure to rivers already swollen by a long monsoon season.

Deforestation in the hills to the south of the city, chaotic planning and the rubbish that clogs the hundreds of waterways that crisscross the city are some of the factors behind the floods. Corrupt city officials turn an eye to building violations and lack the skills and ability to build flood defenses.

Indrado, a resident in Central Jakarta, said the floods should cause a rethink.

“We cannot only blame the government,” he said. “We the people also have to support it by not littering rivers.”

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