Thousands evacuated as floods hit Jakarta and nearby areas after heavy rain

This aerial picture shows people rowing a raft over a flooded road in Jakarta, on Feb 20, 2021.
This aerial picture shows people rowing a raft over a flooded road in Jakarta, on Feb 20, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Thousands of residents were evacuated to temporary shelters on Saturday (Feb 20) as floods hit Jakarta and its surrounding areas after heavy rain that peaked on Friday evening.

Some neighbourhoods were submerged as river levels rose in the capital city, which is home to more than 10 million people.

The National Search and Rescue Agency said on Saturday that more than 4,500 people left their homes for safer grounds or were evacuated in Greater Jakarta, comprising the capital and surrounding areas such as Bekasi, Depok and Tangerang.

In some parts of East Jakarta, such as Cipinang Melayu and Kampung Melayu, which are located near the riverbanks, the flood waters rose up to 4m.

Jakarta’s streets and toll roads were inundated, prompting toll road operators to temporarily shut several toll gates on Saturday.

Most of the subdistricts in the city of Bekasi, West Java, were flooded, according to its local disaster management agency. 

Mosques and a university hall were among places that provided shelter for evacuees in Jakarta.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan attributed the flood to the high rainfall of more than 150mm in a day. The downpour began on Thursday, peaked on Friday and continued in some areas on Saturday.

He said on Saturday: “The capacity of Jakarta’s drainage system ranges between 50 and 100 millimetres. If the rainfall is above 150 millimetres per day, certainly there will be floods.”

Speaking during a visit to a sluice gate, which helps to control the water levels in the city, Dr Anies said Jakarta has made provisions amid the pandemic, including preparing quarantine sites for evacuees who test positive for Covid-19.

A video posted by the National Police on Twitter showed a white coffin being transported from a neighbourhood on a rubber boat by a team that handles the bodies of those who died from Covid-19.

The weatherman and the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space had sounded early warnings about heavy rain and potential floods earlier in the week in Greater Jakarta.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) chief Dwikorita Karnawati said at a virtual press briefing on Saturday that the floods in Jakarta and nearby areas were triggered by extreme rainfall within 24 hours.

BMKG classifies rainfall as high intensity when it is over 50mm, very high intensity when it is between 100mm and 150mm, and extreme when it is over 150mm.

University of Indonesia’s water management expert Firdaus Ali, however, said Jakarta and its satellite cities have to do more to prevent floods.

“What can we manage? Our capability to manage (the drainage systems) to avert the disaster,” he told Kompas TV.

The BMKG said the rainy season has yet to peak in 35 per cent of Indonesia’s 342 season zones and these include parts of Java.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, has been hit by more than 66 natural disasters since early January, including quakes, floods, tornadoes and landslides.

At least 21 people died and over 60,000 residents were evacuated after floods struck South Kalimantan last month.

In the latest incident, a landslide caused by torrential rains on Feb 14 swept away a number of homes in Nganjuk Regency in East Java, killing at least 19.