Indonesia mounts operation to aid flood victims in Jakarta after heaviest rainfall in a single day in 24 years

An aerial picture of an area affected by floods in Jakarta, next to Ciliwung river, on Jan 2, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO
People gather around a dam which collapsed after heavy rain in West Java, on Jan 2, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO
Residents wading through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Jan 1, 2020. PHOTO: AP

JAKARTA - Indonesian authorities have mounted an operation to evacuate and rescue thousands of people in Jakarta and surrounding areas hit by severe flooding and landslides after the heaviest downpour in a single day in 24 years.

At least 26 people have been killed and more than 30,000 left homeless by the disaster.

After a coordination meeting of various ministries and agencies on Thursday (Jan 2), National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) head Doni Monardo said the government's top priority was to evacuate residents and attend to those injured.

Additionally, officials are helping to distribute food, medication and inflatable boats, while a health task force will deal with post-flood borne diseases, including skin irritation and diarrhoea.

Work is also underway to help those hit by electricity supply cuts and facing a shortage of clean water.

"This is an effort to collaborate and synergise all parties. Disasters are a shared concern and require.... coordination across agencies to ensure that the flood is managed in a more integrated manner," Lieutenant-General Doni said in a statement.

The military has been mobilised to help in relief efforts. Nearly 3,700 troops in Jakarta, West Java and Banten provinces have been deployed as well as 50 rubber boats, 10 ships, five helicopters, and 32 trucks. Police are also helping to evacuate victims in more than 260 locations around Jakarta.

Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara told reporters that 19 victims had been positively identified, adding that their families would each receive 15 million rupiah (S$1,456) from the government. The ministry updated the death toll to 26 in the evening on Thursday.

Women carrying their children walk across floodwaters in Jakarta's Jatinegara area after heavy rain on Jan 2, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

Earlier on Thursday, BNPB spokesman Agus Wibowo said that the death toll could rise further. Many of the victims had succumbed to hypothermia, drowned or were electrocuted.

The heavy downpour began in Jakarta on Tuesday night and continued till Wednesday morning.

The BBC, quoting the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said 377mm of rainfall was recorded at the domestic Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta, the most rain in a single day since at least 1996 when records supplied by the agency began.
The runway at the airport was closed temporarily but flights have since resumed.

In a Facebook post late Wednesday, President Joko Widodo ordered the Jakarta administration to work with related agencies "to save citizens and provide security to the community".

On his Twitter page, the president blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the flooding. He said some projects had been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, who has been criticised on social media for the floods, on Thursday posted on Instagram that 120,000 Jakarta officials were rendering aid to affected residents.

He said the city administration was setting up health posts, public kitchens and evacuation points to provide medication, ready-to-eat meals, and drinking water, among other things, to victims.

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