Floods cause chaos

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2007, 12:00am

What happened?

Flooding has inundated tens of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, causing death and homelessness in a city of 12 million people. Authorities have cut off their electricity and water supply.

Where and when did the floods occur?

Since Thursday, incessant rain over Indonesia's capital Jakarta and the hills to the south have triggered the city's worst floods in recent memory.

'Jakarta is now on the highest alert level,' said Sihar Simanjuntak, an official monitoring the water levels of the many rivers.

Who has the flooding affected?

The death toll from flooding in the capital and surrounding towns had reached 20 as of early yesterday, mostly by drowning or electrocution, with almost 340,000 people homeless.

'We were starving for two days,' said Sri Hatyati, who was rescued from her house by soldiers on a dinghy on the city's western outskirts. 'All we had were dried noodles. We were unable to go anywhere.'

Hundreds remain on the second floors of their houses, either trapped or unwilling to abandon them, despite warnings that muddy water running four metres deep in places may rise in the coming days.

How were residents helped?

About 12,600 extra police, using helicopters and inflatable boats and rafts, are helping with evacuations. Medical teams have been sent on rubber rafts into the worst-hit districts amid fears disease may spread among residents living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean drinking water.

Why is it flooding in Jakarta?

Jakarta Governor, Sutiyoso, blamed widespread deforestation in Puncak, saying it has destroyed water catchment areas.

Environment Minister Racmat Witoelar blamed poor urban planning for the disaster. 'Authorities hand out [building permits] even though they clearly violate environmental impact studies,' The Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile plains.

With more rain forecast, authorities have put the capital on high alert. Indonesia's meteorological agency is forecasting rain for the next two weeks.