29 dead, hundreds of thousands displaced in Jakarta floods

Sebastian Gregg

Nearly 30 people are dead and hundreds of thousands are homeless in Jakarta, Indonesia after the heaviest torrential downpours in five years caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding the city.

At least 29 were reported dead, mainly from drowning or electrocution. According to the BBC, over 330,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes in the wake of one of Jakarta’s worst floods in years. Hundreds of thousands more remain without electricity or clean water. Estimates of the flooded area range between 40 percent and 75 percent of Jakarta. The city is Indonesia’s capital and home to 12 million inhabitants.

In low-lying areas of the city, there were floodwaters of up to 12 feet. Although Monday was void of additional rainfall, meteorologists warned of more rain in the coming days as well as additional flooding if rivers continued to overflow their banks.

In addition to containing the extent of the flooding, Jakartan authorities are increasingly fearful of an outbreak of disease due to unsanitary conditions.

Reuters quoted a health official as saying that more than 50,000 people had already sought medical attention as of Monday. Another official expressed concern over possible outbreaks of dysentery and diarrhea, as well as “illnesses spread by rats.”

The New York Times reported that officials also warned of the spread of cholera, typhoid fever, malaria and dengue fever. Jakarta’s susceptibility to disease is compounded due to a lack of fresh water and electricity in flooded areas.

Moreover, the flooding has potentially exacerbated the threat of avian flu, which has killed 63 people in Indonesia in recent years. According to the New York Times, cases of the virus have flared this past summer in Indonesia.

Amid the overflowing rivers and clogged sewers, Jakarta’s residents decried the government’s response to the disaster as they escaped their homes in makeshift rafts or by wading through the water.

The Jakarta Post accused the government of negligence, saying it did not learn any lessons after the previous heavy floods which occurred in 2002.

The newspaper also accused city administrators of delaying the construction of a canal to control flooding. Jakarta’s governor insisted that the floods were a “cyclical natural phenomenon” and out of the control of the government.

In 2002, heavy flooding killed 40 and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Jakarta is paralyzed each year during the rainy season due to flooding, but this year’s deluge, according to the AFP, is the worst in recent memory.