Deadly Floods Hit Jakarta, Residents Sue Governor

JAKARTA, Indonesia

The combination of the heaviest rainfall in years, and being the fastest sinking city in the world, has proven a deadly combination for Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, as flooding has claimed at least 67 victims since 31 December.

173,000 people have been evacuated from Jakarta by flash flooding. 158 urban communities were hit as well as Jakarta, including those of Bekasi, Tangerang and South Lebak. Previous flooding in 2007 saw Jakarta under at least 4m of water and affected 70 percent of the population, displacing 400,000 people.

A lawsuit was filed 13 January against city governor Anies Baswedan by 243 Jakarta residents saying that authorities had failed to take sufficient action, seeking $3.1 Million USD in compensation. 

“People have been affected tremendously. They deserve compensation and assurance from the government that their concerns are being addressed,” said Alvon Kurnia Palma at the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation, who is representing plaintiffs. 

“This is not the first time we are filing a lawsuit against the government for floods, but this time we have clear evidence linking the government’s negligence to the damage caused. People are angry that nothing has been done,” he said (Reuters).

Soldiers and health workers were deployed in early January to spray the city with disinfectant in anticipation of possible diseases spread by flooding, such as dengue and leptospirosis.

Freak flooding may become the new norm for Jakarta as some experts predict the city to be under water completely by 2050. The city is sinking 5-10cm every year and in some places as fast as 25cm due to over-extraction of underground water resources. The low-lying city is also particularly vulnerable to rise in sea-level caused by climate change.

According to the Jakarta Post, rainfall intensity reached between 259-335mm per day. This was recorded on December 31st at Halim Perdanakusuma Airforce Base in East Jakarta.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) say that rainfall intensity above 150mm per day is considered as “extreme”.

A BMKG statement said “The rain falling on New Year’s Eve in the western and northern parts of Java was very extreme and triggered floods in (Greater Jakarta) and Cikampek in West Java. This rain is not ordinary rain”.

The cause of the intense rainfall as to be attributed to several factors including the clash of winds resulting in monsoon weather over the Java island. The added effect of water vapour caused by high temperatures over the Indian ocean has caused large cloud formations, which has caused severe rain.

However, the worst is yet to come warns Jakarta-based urban planning expert Nirwono Joga. He warns that the worst of the rainy season is expected in the first two weeks of February.

He further explained that Jakarta is experiencing two types of floods at the same time. ”The first type is when Bogor city experiences heavy rain and the water exceeds the capacity of Jakarta’s Ciliwung River, inundating the areas surrounding the riverbanks…The second type is local flooding, where heavy rainfall, compounded by non-functioning drainage system, causes streets and settlements to be flooded”.

The city is now in recovery after the recent flooding as citizens work together to remove rubbish and waste material left spewed by the flood.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is working with the Mayor of Bekasi Rahmat Effendi to help dispose of post flooding waste: “This isn’t the Republic of Jakarta or the Republic of Bekasi…This is our responsibility. So, we must not be compartmentalized in our thinking", Baswedan said.

OOSKAnews has previously reported that the government of Indonesia has “appointed international management consultancy McKinsey & Company to prepare a study of the relocation of Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to Borneo. As fears grow that the city will soon be uninhabitable due to the nature of flooding and sinking of the land”.