Flood death toll rises to 21 in Indonesian capital

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Members of a rescue team prepare an inflatable boat to evacuate locals as floods hit the Jatinegara area after heavy rains in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

January 2, 2020

By Jessica Damiana

JAKARTA (Reuters) – The death toll from flash floods and landslides in and around Indonesia’s capital Jakarta reached at least 21 on Thursday, with more heavy rain forecast, authorities said.

The flood, one of the deadliest in years, displaced more than 30,000 people and caused chaos across parts of Southeast Asia’s biggest city with train lines blocked and power outages in some areas.

Social affairs ministry spokesman Joko Hariyanto said in a message to Reuters that the death toll had now reached 21.

Swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns were inundated after heavy rain fell on Dec. 31 and into the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo told reporters on Thursday that evacuation and safety procedures should be prioritized, but called for more coordination between city administrations with the central government.

On his Twitter page, Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the flooding. He said some projects have been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.

Authorities did not give a full breakdown of the causes of death for all of the victims, but earlier said four people had drowned, four died in landslides and four more were electrocuted, while three died of hypothermia.

Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretary said in a statement, citing the geophysics agency, that extreme weather may continue across Indonesia until next Jan. 7 and warned people to remain on alert for further flooding or landslides.

Television footage on Thursday showed rescuers in the nearby city of Tangerang evacuating people, guiding them across a strong current by holding on to a rope.

Jakarta police on their Twitter account warned that a number of main streets across the capital were not yet passable, accompanied by a video showing a postal truck being stuck in the middle of a road.

Jakarta and its surroundings are home to more than 30 million people. More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the center of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.

The government announced last year that it is relocating the capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo, though the planning ministry pledged that the government will invest $40 billion in modernizing the city.

City authorities have in the last few years sought to improve low-lying Jakarta’s vulnerability to flooding during the rainy season.

(Additional reporting by Tabita Diela, Fransiska Nangoy, Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Matthew Tostevin & Kim Coghill)

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