Exceptional rainfall floods Jakarta; South Tangerang, Tangerang City and Lebak (Banten province); and Bekasi and Bogor (West Java). Many call for the resignation of Jakarta’s governor.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – At least 26 people have died so far after Jakarta was hit by severe rainfall over the past couple of days with more than 62,000 people evacuated, the Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) announced in its latest bulletin.
Flooding in the capital has led to landslides, interrupted public transport services and caused power outages. Rescue teams continue to work relentlessly, whilst the authorities have issued advisories warning that the bad weather will continue until next Tuesday.
In addition to the capital, the areas most affected by flooding are the districts of South Tangerang, Tangerang City and Lebak (Banten province) and Bekasi and Bogor (West Java).
The dead include some who drowned, others were killed in landslides, four were electrocuted, and three died of hypothermia.
In Jakarta many parishes cancelled Mass for the solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God. Water also flooded a number of churches: Maria Kusuma Karmel, Meruya (West Jakarta) near Joglo, and Kalvari in Lubang Buaya (Bekasi, picture 4) near Pondokgede.
The Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) described the rainfall of recent days as "extremely abnormal", noting that rising sea levels contributed to the problem as normal water outflow from Jakarta’s canals and rivers was held back.
Indonesian president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the Housing and Public Works Ministry blame the state of the Ciliwung River, which flows through the city. Over the past few years, residential construction along the river banks has restricted its riparian zone.
Under Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama (2014-2017), civic authorities adopted a plan to rehouse riverside communities as well as restore and upgrade the riverbanks. However, the current governor, Anies Baswedan, stopped the project without providing any reasons.
The 33-kilometre Ciliwung Normalisation Project launched by former Governor Ahok stopped at 16th kilometre.
On Twitter, President Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the flooding. He said some have been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition issues.
On social media, many Jakarta residents slam Governor Baswedan. More and more are demanding his resignation, blaming him for not pursuing the good initiatives of his predecessor.
For his part, Baswedan said several times that rain water should be allowed to go into the ground rather than be forced into drainage channels and rivers to flow out to the sea.
Others accuse the governor of "letting disasters happen in Jakarta" in order to besmirch the reputation of Ahok, and especially the president, who did not appoint him Education minister.
Meanwhile, the BNPB and the Technology Assessment and Application Board (BPPT) announced plans to use technology to change the weather in order to reduce the intensity of rainfall in Greater Jakarta.
The BPPT wants to use weather modification technology to drop rain-bearing clouds coming to Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi in Sunda Strait, Lampung, and neighbouring areas. The goal is to cut rainfall by 30-50 per cent.
The Indonesian capital is regularly hit by floods during the rainy season. Jakarta and its surrounding areas are home to over 30 million people.
More than 50 people died in 2007 in one of the deadliest floods to hit the capital. Five years ago, much of the city centre was flooded after canals overflowed.
Last year, the government announced plans to move the capital to East Kalimantan province (Borneo); at the same time, the Planning Ministry pledged to invest US billion to modernise Jakarta.