Horse-drawn carts rescued residents from flood-stricken districts in the Indonesian capital on Monday after rain burst riverbanks throughout the city, killing at least 25 people and forcing some 340,000 people from their homes.
Brighter skies brought relief to some districts in Jakarta, and witnesses said floods were receding in several areas while water levels at key rivers were dropping.
Still, large areas remained submerged under waist-high waters and officials warned that rain over hills to the south might result in more flooding in the city later Monday. “We expect residents to stay alert because water may rise again and very fast,” said Sihar Simanjuntak, an official monitoring the many rivers that crisscross the city of 12 million people.
Jakarta’s heavily criticized governor said he could not be held responsible for the worst floods to hit the city 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 3:00 a.m. this morning trying to handle the refugees.”
Simanjantak said just under 40 percent of the city had been flooded. Another official earlier said that 75 percent of Jakarta was affected. It was not immediately possible to resolve the discrepancy, but Indonesian officials often release different statistics during a disaster.
Indonesia’s meteorological agency has forecast rain for the next two weeks. 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 Monday 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 Monday, 25 people had died, mostly by drowning or electrocution, officials 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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