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17 dead, thousands displaced after floods wash through Indonesia’s capital

16 dead, thousands displaced after floods wash through Indonesia’s capital
WATCH ABOVE: Floods submerged parts of the Indonesian capital on the first day of New Year after torrential rainfall overnight, killing 16 people and forcing about 19,000 people to evacuate

Severe flooding and landslides triggered by torrential rain in Indonesia’s capital have killed 17 people and displaced tens of thousands, a disaster official said Thursday.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 169 neighbourhoods in greater Jakarta and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on Jakarta’s outskirts, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said.

The floods inundated thousands of homes and buildings and forced authorities to cut off electricity and water and paralyzed transport networks, Wibowo said. He said more than 31,000 people were in temporary shelters after floodwaters reached as high as 2.5 metres (more than 8 feet) in places.

READ MORE: Venice flooding kills at least 11, puts city under worst water levels in 6 years

Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusumah domestic airport reopened Thursday after operations were suspended when flood water submerged its runway, said Muhammad Awaluddin, the president director of PT. Angkasa Pura II, the airport’s operator. Nearly 20,000 passengers had been affected by the closure.

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Residents of Bekasi on the Jakarta’s outskirts waded through water up to their necks or floated on makeshift rafts carrying clothes and other salvaged possessions. Some scrambled onto roofs to await rescue from soldiers and emergency workers in rubber dinghies.

“The government is awful and the rescue effort is too slow,” said Imas Narulita, who spent 36 hours on the second floor of her suburban house with her 6-month-old baby.

She said that she have a neighbour who is sick but no one has come to rescue him.

“In this modern time, no one should have died because of this,” she said.

Indonesian people wade through floodwaters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes.
Indonesian people wade through floodwaters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man carrying a boy wades through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes.
A man carrying a boy wades through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Indonesian people wade through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes.
Indonesian people wade through floodwaters at Jatibening on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Severe flooding hit Indonesia's capital just after residents celebrating New Year's Eve, forcing a closure of an airport and thousands of inhabitants to flee their flooded homes. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara said the government dispatched medical teams and rubber rafts to the worst-hit areas, while rescuers in boats delivered instant noodles and rice to those who chose to stay on the upper floors of their homes.

The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.

Jakarta is home to 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.

Venice swamped by high tide on Christmas Eve
Venice swamped by high tide on Christmas Eve

President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.

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Widodo told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday that one of the causes of flooding is due to damage to the ecosystem and ecology in addition to many people who throw garbage into rivers.

He said that the government is working to mitigate and prevent flooding in regions across the country. Especially in Jakarta, the construction of West Java’s Cimahi and Ciawi dams is expected to be completed by next year.

“Both the central and regional governments would work together to solve the problem,” Widodo said.