Catastrophic floods hit the capital of Indonesia
January 14, 2020
A torrential downpour in Jakarta and the surrounding provinces of West Java and Banten on New Year’s Eve caused a catastrophic flood that killed 67 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. The rivers exploded on its banks, overturned cars and completely submerged single-storey houses. It is the deadliest flood in Jakarta since the 2007 flood, which killed 80 people.
According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), an estimated 377 millimeters of rain fell in one day, the strongest rain in Jakarta since records began in 1866. Within hours of the downpour, the water had increased Almost eight meters in some areas. The state meteorological agency forecast more extreme rains at the end of the month and until the rainy season ends in April.
The floods submerged 74 districts in the metropolitan area of the city, including 12 districts in central Jakarta, many of which had never been affected by floods before. More than 1,300 homes in the poorest neighborhoods have been devastated and thousands more severely damaged. Residents drowned, some died of hypothermia or were electrocuted. Hundreds of thousands have left their homes and sought refuge in wet and overcrowded emergency shelters.
Heavy rain caused landslides in mountainous areas on the outskirts of the capital that buried dozens of people. On Sunday, the search for buried victims of a massive landslide in the impoverished rural Sukajaya district in West Java was completed after two weeks. Landslides destroyed more than 400 houses, displaced 4,000 farmers and workers, and claimed six lives. Several remain missing.
In Jakarta, 724 power plants were shut down by the state power company PLN as a precaution, after a 16-year-old boy was electrocuted by a power line. Public transport operations were interrupted and Halim Perdanakusuma airport was temporarily closed due to submerged runways.
Blackouts and lack of telecommunications hindered search efforts. Water and electricity supplies were still cut long after the floods receded. Residents had to use rafts to navigate through flooded roads and floating debris. A resident of Jakarta, Pudji, said he had to wait 22 hours on his roof before being rescued. Economist reported.
In response, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) sent relief items, deployed personnel and established evacuation centers for victims. The Indonesian Red Cross deployed volunteers and staff in the affected areas, and also provides first aid and health services. More than 1,000 soldiers and health workers have sprayed Jakarta to defend against possible waterborne diseases, such as dengue and leptospirosis, which could spread from flood waters that have accumulated around the capital.
President Joko Widodo visited several of the most affected villages, including in the Lebak regency in Banten, where 19 schools were damaged. He had planned to meet with residents of buried villages in Sukajaya, but the terrain was too unstable for his helicopter to land.
Java was not the only region flooded by heavy rains. Across the Indonesian archipelago, at least 169 areas were affected by floods. In the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve downpour, flash floods destroyed bridges and damaged villages in several provinces on the island of Sumatra. A family of five disappeared in the regency of Labuhan Batu, North Sumatra, apparently dragged along the river along with their house, in a flood that destroyed 229 houses. Floods in western Sumatra, Bengkulu and Central Sulawesi have caused deaths and left thousands of people homeless.
President Widodo did not hesitate to blame the poorest sectors of the Indonesian working class for the disaster. He said the floods were caused by workers who turned the land into residential areas and did not dispose of the trash properly, according to the local newspaper. Kompas .
For years, Widodo has promised to improve the defenses against flooding in Jakarta by building two dams and starting construction work on the walls of the Ciliwung River. Those projects, however, have been plagued by delays. On January 2, he told reporters: “The most important thing at this time is that the evacuation of the victims, the safety and security of the community have priority. Later, the flood infrastructure will be managed once the evacuation management is completed. ”
As in other countries, Indonesian workers and rural masses are furious at the indifference of the government and the ruling elites to their plight in times of natural disasters. After the 2007 disaster, a flood in 2013 killed 47 people and submerged much of the less developed districts of the city when the canals overflowed. And yet, the response of successive governments has been characterized by insufficient investment in flood prevention infrastructure or, in the worst case, criminal negligence.
Indonesia is undergoing a historical transformation from a largely rural to urban society, and more than 68 percent of the population is expected to live in cities within the next five years, according to the World Bank. However, the rapid urbanization of the country is regulated by private interests, as seen in the prioritization of clean drinking water for residents in the rich districts of Jakarta, whose use of groundwater has led to the sinking of the megacity. Delik Hudalah, a researcher at the Bandung Institute of Technology, discovered that governments had been so negligent that the private business sector has almost completely shaped the city’s current character.
The floods have ignited the discussion in Indonesian media and social networks about the growing social inequality. Elisa Sutanudjaja, director of the Rujak Center for Urban Studies based in Jakarta, said: “The rich can be saved at the expense of other neighborhoods … In a climate crisis, [the poor] they are the first victims and the last to receive help. “
An aerial photo posted on Twitter showed the pristine grounds of the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta without being affected by the downpour, while the adjacent poor Kampung (neighborhood) was submerged in muddy waters. The photo generated a lot of conversation about how the floods had exposed the country’s inequality.
Last Friday, Tempo reported on a new ominous development. Jakarta Police Chief Nana Sudjana announced the formation of a new working group designed to “deal with” extreme weather disasters, consisting of “police, armed forces and related agencies.”
The government’s fear is that the widespread anger caused by the flood disaster could become a mass movement against social inequality, poverty and the ruling Indonesian ruling class. Jakarta, a sunken megacity of 35 million people facing increasing air congestion and pollution, is a social explosion that is about to occur.
However, Jakarta’s problems are simply a concentrated expression of the grotesque levels of social inequality in Indonesia and throughout the region. In the face of new demonstrations and public outrage, the Widodo government is preparing state police measures, as it has done in the brutal state repression of demonstrations in West Papua over the past four months.
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