01/03/2020, 13.26
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Death toll in Jakarta floods rises to 43; Church gets involved in relief work

by Mathias Hariyadi

The Archdiocese’s humanitarian response agency is coordinating aid distribution, such as medicines and basic necessities, via Internet and social media, to help thousands of displaced people. some 400,000 residents have been moved to temporary shelters, whilst over 35,000 have sought refuge on higher ground or roofs of government buildings or places of worship.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Rescue teams have mounted a desperate search for people who are still missing as a result of flash floods and landslides that recently hit the Jakarta region, killing at least 43 people as well as leaving whole districts underwater and thousands of people homeless, Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) reported.

The country has responded to the crisis with a spirit of patriotism and compassion, including the Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Jakarta, which has undertaken humanitarian initiatives to deal with the emergency.

BNPB spokesman Agus Wibowo has reported that some 400,000 residents have been moved to temporary shelters. More than 35,000 have been forced to leave their homes as a result of flooding, seeking refuge on higher ground or on the roofs of government buildings or places of worship, including churches.

Actions and support by Catholics are being coordinated by the Archdiocese’s humanitarian response agency, Lembaga Daya Dharma Keuskupan Agung Jakarta (LDD-KAJ), which is using Internet and social media to coordinate the distribution of medicines and basic necessities to thousands of displaced people in Jakarta, Tangerang, Bekasi, Pondokgede, Ciledug and Bogor.

In addition to fundraising, LDD-KAJ has also set up a flood crisis centre (picture 2) at the Cathedral of the Assumption, which will accept any humanitarian donations from the public and provide assistance to temporary shelters.

Catholics are also busy in other ways. Bunda Teresa, a Catholic prayer community, is raising money for LDD-KAJ to help parishes working on the ground.

In the capital, some priests have launched personal initiatives. Fr Yos Bintoro, for example, is asking parishioners to help with food for people sheltering at the Santo Agustino (St Augustine) Church.

"There are at least 182 people seeking refuge here," he wrote in an appeal that has gone viral among Catholics on social media. "There are 64 children and 15 infants, and they need not only food and medical supplies, but also special baby food and clothing, toiletries and blankets."

Fr Bintoro is a diocesan priest assigned to the military ordinariate of the Indonesian Armed Forces, in particular the Air Force.

In the meantime, official relief operations continue non-stop, but many residents have criticised the actions of Governor Anies Baswedan.

This morning President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo made a surprise visit to the Pluit Reservoir in North Jakarta (pictures 3 and 4), a major pumping station, which Widodo had it built when he was governor of the capital (2012-2014). In the presence of senior government officials, the president ensured that the plant was being correctly operated.

Jakarta is regularly hit by floods during the rainy season, which begins in late November. But this week's disaster is the worst since 2013. In the first hours after the flood, Widodo said on his social media profiles that the most serious floods occurred across four watersheds (Das) in Jakarta: Krukut, Ciliwung, Cakung and Sunter.

He explained that the construction of flood management systems has faced problems since 2017 (when Baswesan was elected) due to the inability of the city government to buy needed land.

The president noted however that land acquisition was 90 per cent complete, whilst the construction of the Ciawi and Sukamahi reservoirs was nearing 45 per cent. The two facilities are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

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