02/08/2021, 15.12
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Flooding in Semarang paralyses traffic and damages old chapel

by Mathias Hariyadi

Rail lines and east-west road links are blocked by more than a metre of flood waters. Cars have been left on road sides. The Kaligawe River broke its banks flooding the Gedangan convent. “It all happened very quickly,” said Fr Theresio. A new weather advisory warns of more rain in the next few hours.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The massive floods that hit Semarang in recent days have sowed chaos and confusion.

A metre of water has interrupted rail links to the capital of Central Java province, paralysing east-west road traffic, and putting out of service the city’s Tawang Central Station.

Scores of cars line up on the side of roads, with drivers waiting to resume their journey.

One of the most affected areas is Kota Lama, Semarang’s Old Quarter. Several of its building date back to the Dutch colonial era and are of great value, such as the central railway station, the Blenduk Protestant Church and the OSF Gedangan Convent, which have suffered the greatest damage (pictured).

The disaster coincided with the celebrations marking 151 years since the arrival of the first Franciscan Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity (OSF) and the start of their social outreach aimed at both Christians and non-Christians.

The OSF apostolate began at the Gedangan convent, the place where the first Dutch missionaries arrived, named after the local area. Today most of the compound is under more than half a metre of water.

“It all happened very quickly in the early morning last Saturday when the Kaligawe River overflew its banks,” said Sr. Theresio, deputy chief of the OSF congregation, speaking to AsiaNews.

To make matters worse, the convent is below sea level. Among the most affected parts are the historic chapel and the congregation’s museum where hundreds of objects are kept and exhibited.

Flood waters began dropping this morning, but the situation is still difficult because it is still raining and we could have another emergency in a few hours with more flooding.

“Water suddenly entered my home and I couldn’t do anything,” a local resident, Ari, told AsiaNews.

One of the reasons for the sudden flooding is the lack of proper drainage to favour the flow of the waters. This also happened in Mawen when the Dengkeng River broke its banks.

The only reassuring thing so far is that no one has died or gotten hurt; the damage is only material and the main problems are related to road and rail traffic.

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