Monsoon floods hit Indonesian capital, forcing 1,300 to evacuate

While Jakarta residents are used to heavy flooding in the rainy season, scientists warn the floods are getting worse.

Volunteers evacuate elderly women with an inflatable boat in an area affected by floods, following heavy rains in Jakarta, Indonesia [Antara Foto/Sigid Kurniawan via Reuters]

Rescue operations are under way in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta amid severe flooding across several areas which have forced more than 1,000 people to flee their homes.

Some 1,380 Jakarta residents were evacuated on Saturday from southern and eastern areas of the city, home to 10 million people, after floodwaters level rose to 1.8 metres in some neighbourhoods, said Sabdo Kurnianto, the acting head of Jakarta’s disaster mitigation agency, in a statement. He said no casualties had been reported.

“Two hundred neighbourhoods have been affected, according to the latest data,” Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan told local television early on Saturday, adding that more than two dozen evacuation centres have been prepared across the city.

“The rain has stopped, but water from other areas is still affecting Jakarta. Hopefully, it won’t hit the city centre and when the water recedes people can resume their activities.”

Indonesia’s meteorology agency (BMKG) has warned the heaviest rain of the season may fall in and around the densely populated capital in the coming days, with extreme weather, including heavy rain, thunder and strong winds, expected throughout the next week.

“These are critical times that we need to be aware of,” Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of BMKG, told Reuters news agency.

“Jakarta and its surrounding areas are still in the peak period of the rainy season, which is estimated to continue until the end of February or early March.”

The BMKG said Jakarta would be on alert for the next four days with data from the meteorology agency showing intense rainfall in the past 24 hours with the area of Pasar Minggu, in Jakarta’s south, recording 226mm of rain since Friday.

People posted photos on social media of residents wading through shoulder-high muddy waters, cars almost entirely submerged, and search teams evacuating elderly residents in rubber dinghies in the peak of the monsoon season.

The floods come at a time when Indonesia is already grappling with the highest caseload and death tally from COVID-19 in Southeast Asia and an economic recession.

People push their motorbikes through the water in an area affected by floods following heavy rains in Jakarta, Indonesia [Antara Foto/Aprillio Akbar via Reuters]

Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from one of the worst affected areas in East Jakarta, said while the city is flooded every year, “environmentalists and scientists are saying that these incidents should not be normalised”.

She said overdevelopment, too much concrete, a lack of green space, and over-extraction of groundwater contribute to severe flooding and make Jakarta the world’s fastest sinking city.

“The scientists we’ve spoken to say that the Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan has not acted as promised and – instead of focusing on river normalisation and widening the rivers to make this city more resilient against flooding – he’s focused on the aesthetics rather than the practicalities,” she said.

“And that means that this year, and potentially in future years, this flooding crisis will only get worse.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies