Jakarta flooding deaths rise to 53, nearly 175,000 displaced

 Indonesians clean their homes and cutlery along the river in Jakarta on Jan 3, 2020, after flooding triggered by heavy rain.
Indonesians clean their homes and cutlery along the river in Jakarta on Jan 3, 2020, after flooding triggered by heavy rain.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Nearly 175,000 people remain displaced in Indonesia's capital Jakarta and nearby towns, after flash floods and landslides killed at least 53 people, amid some of the heaviest rain since records began, authorities said on Saturday (Jan 4).

"The death toll has risen to 53 people, with one person missing," disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said.

Data from the disaster mitigation agency showed 173,064 residents remain evacuated from their homes on Saturday, after the deadliest flooding in years caused chaos in parts of Southeast Asia's biggest city, with train lines blocked and power outages in some areas.

Swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns were inundated after heavy rain fell on Dec 31 and into the early hours of New Year's Day.

The deluge at the start of 2020 was "one of the most extreme rainfall" events since records began in 1866, the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said on Friday.

The agency said climate change had increased the risk of extreme weather and warned that heavy rainfall could last until mid-February, with Jan 11-15 an expected peak.

Television footage showed flood waters inundating parts of Jakarta and mud-covered cars, some piled on top of each other.

Jakarta and its surroundings are home to more than 30 million people. More than 50 people died in one of the capital's deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the centre of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.

Meanwhile, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on Saturday (Jan 4) wrote to his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi to express his condolences over the tragic loss of lives and destruction caused by the floods in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.

"Singapore stands in solidarity with Indonesia during this period. I am confident that the Indonesian government will manage the relief efforts ably, and that the affected neighbourhoods will swiftly return to normalcy," he added in the letter.

Singaporeans in the affected areas have been advised to monitor the local news closely, and heed the instructions of the local authorities, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday (Jan 4). "Singaporeans are also advised to stay in touch with your family and friends so that they know you are safe," it added.