Monsoon misery in Indonesia

Residents help a motorist to cross a flooded street as seasonal rains and high tides cause widespread flooding. Photo / AP
Residents help a motorist to cross a flooded street as seasonal rains and high tides cause widespread flooding. Photo / AP

Flooding has forced thousands to evacuate Indonesia's capital city once again, as monsoon rains wreaked havoc on Jakarta.

Floodwaters have reached 3m in some districts, forcing the Government to deploy soldiers to help nearly 50,000 residents in the sprawling city of 10 million people, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

At least 30,000 people are currently taking refuge at temporary shelters, schools or mosques.

The torrential rains brought fresh misery for residents after last year's rainy season brought Jakarta to a standstill. Then, a river burst its banks and swamped the central business district, causing hundreds of million of dollars of damage.

David Schult, 46, a Canadian teacher at North Jakarta International School, said that many people did not expect this year's flood to be as serious, believing last year's flood was "the big one".

At the weekend he woke up to 60cm of water on the main road, making it impassable.

"Only large SUVs and trucks could navigate the roads on Saturday and Sunday though the best way to get around was by horse-drawn cart."

The flooding, which has already resulted in 11 deaths, according to the Disaster Mitigation Agency, also poses a considerable threat to the city governor Joko Widodo's presidential hopes.

Widodo came to office in late 2012 with promises of strengthening the city's flood defences, and had since launched several initiatives to alleviate flooding, including creating more green spaces and drainage to absorb rainwater and having the riverbanks cleared of illegal housing.

With residents already bracing themselves for worse to come after more forecasts of heavy rain were broadcast for the week ahead, critics of Widodo are questioning whether he has done enough to protect the city.

This year's floods have already caused US$80 million ($100 million) in damage, according to the Disaster Mitigation Agency.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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