Over 170,000 in shelters as Indonesia flood deaths hit 53

Workers sweeping away flood water outside stores at a shopping centre in the Jatinegara district of Jakarta yesterday.
Workers sweeping away flood water outside stores at a shopping centre in the Jatinegara district of Jakarta yesterday.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA • Tens of thousands of Indonesians were still unable to return to their waterlogged homes yesterday after flooding hit the Jakarta capital region, killing at least 53 people, the authorities said.

More than 170,000 people took refuge in shelters across the massive urban centre - home to some 30 million - after whole neighbourhoods were submerged.

As many as 400,000 fled their homes over the past few days, mostly from the Bekasi area, but some have returned home.

Torrential rain that started on New Year's Eve unleashed flash floods and landslides in the region and neighbouring Lebak at the south end of Java island.

Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency BNPB said the death toll had climbed to 53, with one person still missing.

"We've discovered more dead bodies," said its spokesman Agus Wibowo.

Officials were planning to visit the homeless yesterday in the hardest-hit areas, he added. Shelters filled up with refugees, including infants, resting on thin mats as food and drinking water ran low.

Some had been reduced to using flood waters to clean themselves and dishes.

"We badly need clean water in this shelter," Ms Trima Kanti said from one refuge in Jakarta's western edges.

 
 
 
 

"We're cleaning ourselves in a nearby church, but the timing has been limited since it uses an electric generator for power," the 39-year-old added.

In hard-hit Bekasi, on the eastern outskirts of Jakarta, swampy streets were littered with debris and crushed cars, with waterline marks reaching as high as the second storey of buildings.

The government said last Friday that it would start cloud seeding - inducing rain using chemicals sprayed from planes - to the west of the capital to prevent approaching rainfall from pounding the region.

Waters had receded in many areas and power was being restored after being cut off in hundreds of districts.

The health ministry has said it deployed some 11,000 health workers and soldiers to distribute medicine, disinfectant hygiene kits and food in a bid to stave off outbreaks of hepatitis A, mosquito-borne dengue fever and other illnesses.

Around Jakarta, a family - including a four-and nine-year-old - died of suspected gas poisoning from a portable power generator, while an eight-year-old boy was killed in a landslide.

Others died from drowning or hypothermia, while one 16-year-old boy was electrocuted by a power line.

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday offered his condolences to the families of the victims and those affected by the disaster.

"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," Dr Balakrishnan wrote in a letter to his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Jakarta is regularly hit by floods during the rainy season, which started in late November.

But last week's disaster marked Jakarta's worst flooding since 2013 when dozens were killed after the city was inundated by monsoon rains.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 05, 2020, with the headline 'Over 170,000 in shelters as Indonesia flood deaths hit 53'. Print Edition | Subscribe