Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jakarta braces for more rain

Monday, February 05, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The nightmarish days of flooding that have paralyzed the capital will not be over soon, authorities warned Sunday, saying more torrential rain is coming and the water being held back by sluice gates has reached alarming levels.

Hari Tirto, an official at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), said the rain in Jakarta will last until the end of the month, with gradually slackening intensity. A collision of wind between the Java Sea and the Maluku Islands will cause periods of unusually heavy rain.

"We should prepare for the possibility of more flood water, especially coming from Bogor," Hari briefed Vice President Jusuf Kalla and his entourage in a visit to the city's crisis center Sunday.

The agency claimed the city had seen its heaviest rain since the 2002 flood, when many parts of Greater Jakarta were also deluged.

"This heavy rain has caused the rivers to flow fast," Hari said.

Torrential rain is expected to fall from before midnight until morning. Depok and Bogor, both in West Java, expect more rain, which threatens Jakarta.

Meanwhile, facing criticism from many who say he did not anticipate the emergency, Governor Sutiyoso said the flood in the city was "a purely natural phenomenon and it was expected that residents would respond proportionally without trying to blame anyone."

Logistical aid was sent out to the refugee shelters before the rainy season, but Sutiyoso argued,"the flood is out of our coping capacity.

"What we can do is to minimize the cost, especially in human lives," he said.

City police reported that 20 deaths have occurred in Greater Jakarta in flood-related incidents during the past three days.

"The deaths have mainly been caused by electrocution and drowning in the strong currents," city police spokesman Sr. Comr. I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said as quoted by Antara.

As of Sunday night, tens of thousands of houses were still flooded to varying heights. The water had receded in some parts of the city, but in other parts the floodwaters were just rolling in.

Police and community members closed many roads, causing headaches for motorists.

As the Vice President and his entourage listened, Sutiyoso explained that the completion of the 23.7-kilometer East Flood Canal project would resolve the chronic flood problem in Jakarta.

The construction of the canal has been hampered by prolonged disputes between the administration and landowners over land prices.

The governor said the administration needed Rp 1 trillion (US$110 million) to get the project off the ground as soon as possible. It is designed to handle water streaming in from upland areas that causes flooding.

The central government has allocated Rp 2.5 trillion for the construction work, while the Jakarta administration has spent Rp 2.4 trillion on land acquisition.

To date, only a 7.6km stretch of the canal has been completed. The project is expected to be finished by 2010.

Vice president Jusuf Kalla said floods happen in every part of the country, but Jakarta suffers the worst impacts because of its density and its economic importance.

He therefore asked the relevant ministers to support the city administration in handling the flood crisis.

The head of the public works agency, Wisnu Subagyo, said his office had deployed 93 mobile water pumps to reduce the level of water in 34 flood-prone areas.

Clean water is also in short supply. Didiet Haryadi, director of city water company PT PAM Jaya, said the company's foreign partners, PT Thames Jaya (TPJ) and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja), could provide less than a half of their normal production.

To handle severe tap water shortages, the two companies have provided mobile water tanks to distribute clean water to hospitals and refugee shelters.

"Learning from the experience of 2002, we need to prepare for at least two to three weeks after the flood before we will be able to supply clean water to people," said Haryadi.(02)

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