Tue, Feb 06, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Indonesian floods leave 340,000 homeless

FLOOD FEARS Three-quarters of Jakarta is under water with little sign of change as officials try to keep waters under control and disease from breaking out on a wide scale


An Indonesian youth sits amid the ruins of houses destroyed by the flood in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday. Boats ferried emergency supplies to desperate residents of Indonesia's flood-stricken capital as overflowing rivers again burst their banks following days of rain. At least 25 people have been killed and almost 340,000 others made homeless, officials said.


Flooding in the Indonesian capital has affected around 75 percent of the city, an official said yesterday as overflowing rivers sent swirling, muddy waters into slum areas, elite housing estates and shopping malls.

At least 25 people have been killed, with some 340,000 others forced from their homes, most staying in mosques, schools or with friends.

Electricity and water supplies were cut in many districts, and floods blocked off scores of roads.

Storm waters that inundated scores of residential areas and shopping districts last week remained 3m deep in places yesterday, with little sign of a letup, witnesses and Anwar Arifin, from Jakarta's flood information center, said.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has forecast rain for the next two weeks.

"As of today, 75 percent of Jakarta remains flooded," Arifin said.

Jakarta's heavily criticized governor said he could not be held responsible for the worst floods to hit the city of 12 million in living memory, saying they were a "natural phenomenon" that occur every five years.

"There is no point in throwing abuse around," Governor Sutiyoso told el-Shinta radio station. "I was up till 3am this morning trying to handle the refugees."

The government has dispatched medical teams on rubber rafts into the worst-hit districts amid fears that disease may spread among residents living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean drinking water.

Residents in one upscale area hired carts and horses to pull them to safety.

"The government is awful," said Augustina Rusli, who until yesterday had stayed on the second floor of her house since Thursday with her 10-month old baby, expecting the floods to be short-lived. "We have a neighbor who is sick with cancer but no one has come to rescue her."

As of yesterday, 25 people had died, mostly by drowning or electrocution, Arifin said

Dr. Rustam Pakaya, from the health ministry's crisis center, said nearly 340,000 people had been made homeless, many of whom are staying with friends or family or at mosques and government buildings.

"We fear that diarrhea and dysentery may break out, as well as illnesses spread by rats," Pakaya said. "People must be careful not to drink dirty water."

Jakarta regularly floods, though not on this scale. Dozens of slum areas near rivers are washed out each year. Residents either refuse or are too poor to vacate the districts.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, where millions live in mountainous areas or near fertile plains.

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