6,000 evacuated in Jakarta after floods

Water levels remain high in north and west

Nearly 6,000 Jakarta residents sought refuge at flood evacuation shelters after the worst floods so far this year inundated parts of north, western and central Jakarta, cutting off major roads and causing traffic congestion to and from the airport.

The National Disaster Management Agency set up 28 posts to hand out food and other necessities while the police deployed 2,000 men to evacuate residents and safeguard abandoned assets.

By the end of yesterday, the flooding in central Jakarta had eased but floods in the north and west remained serious, with water levels in some places up to 1m.

Parts of the city remained in darkness after state-owned power company PLN cut off power to prevent short-circuits or electrocution. One man was missing after being swept away by strong currents, while a woman died after being electrocuted.

A frustrated and angry Jakarta governor, Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, blasted the PLN for disrupting power to 12 pumps in Pluit Dam in north Jakarta, causing floods to envelope central Jakarta on Monday, including the Presidential Palace and the iconic National Monument nearby.

"Why did it flood? PLN cut off the electricity and that's why the pumps did not do the job," he said yesterday.

Floods in densely populated Jakarta are a chronic problem worsened by 13 rivers cutting through it, often bringing rainwater from areas in the highlands such as Bogor in West Java.

It is peak rainy season now in Indonesia. Other cities also hit by floods include Bandung in West Java and Gresik in East Java.

With the weatherman predicting that medium to heavy rains will persist until Chinese New Year next week, businesses are counting their mounting losses.

Mr Harry Su, head of research at Bahana Securities, estimates economic losses at US$120 million (S$160 million).

Ms Tracy Tardia, who sells cars to corporate clients, said the floods prevented her from securing deals and getting approvals from her head office in north Jakarta.

"Customers, suppliers... everyone is affected. The chain is interrupted and that affects a lot of industries," she said.

At least three malls in Kelapa Gading in north Jakarta and shops in the area remain shut because of the floods.

Some companies are giving workers a day off or letting them work from home because of public transport problems.

The chairman of Indonesian Employers Association Hariyadi Sukamdani estimated that an average mall could lose about 15 billion rupiah (S$1.6 million) a day.

President Joko Widodo, who returned to Jakarta on Monday after a five-day visit to three countries including the Philippines, promised to  prioritise flood management.

The government will hasten development of two large reservoirs in Ciawi, Bogor, and Depok, West Java, and an underground deep tunnel connecting the Ciliwung River to an eastern flood canal to help divert floodwaters away from central Jakarta.

"But the problem of floods cannot be solved within a few days... especially since we have been trying for many decades... but we will hasten the solution with these measures," he told reporters after landing at Halim Perdanakusuma airport.

Urban planning analysts have singled out poor drainage, a lack of reservoirs and improper garbage disposal for worsening the problem.

"It is not comfortable living in the city because I know the flooding will come... and we cannot do anything," said Ms Tracy.

zubaidah@sph.com.sg