Wed, 05 Jan 2000

Idul Fitri exodus approaches its peak

JAKARTA (JP): Holidaymakers enjoyed relatively clear roads as the annual exodus ahead of Idul Fitri neared its peak on Tuesday.

Over 4,400 vehicles carrying approximately 31,000 people were transported by ferry from Merak in West Java to Bakaheuni in Lampung, the main port in Sumatra, between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon.

The head of Merak Port, Widodo, said the number of vehicles crossing Sunda Strait had doubled over the past 24 hours, but still remained below last season's 24-hour peak of 5,800 vehicles.

Widodo expected a sharp increase in the number of vehicles beginning late Tuesday night.

There were fewer vehicles seen arriving in Java from Sumatra. Bakaheuni Port administrators recorded 2,600 cars, buses and trucks transported to Java since Sunday night.

Ministry of Transportation secretary-general Anwar Supriyadi predicted a trouble-free passage for people bound for their hometowns to celebrate the Islamic holiday, because many people had already made the trip.

"I just worry about the reverse exodus after the holiday celebrations," Anwar said.

Idul Fitri is expected to fall on Saturday. Millions of people nationwide, including two million from Jakarta, are expected to join the exodus.

Holidaymakers passing through Central Java were warned on Tuesday of traffic congestion due to damage to two bridges in Kebumen and Prembun, the repair of which is not expected to begin until after Idul Fitri.

"I beg for everybody's patience in the face of the inconvenience. I suggest that they use alternative routes," Governor Mardiyanto said as quoted by Antara.

Central Java is expected to be one of main destinations for travelers.

Private cars and trucks heading for and leaving Jakarta are banned from the north-coast road between Tuesday and Saturday, and instead must use the zigzagging south-coast route.

Mardiyanto said the bridges, which are situated on the south- coast road, need overhauling.

He said the provincial administration had ordered all road construction along the north-coast route to be completed before Idul Fitri.

Meanwhile, state oil company Pertamina has asked all gas stations in the West Java towns of Bandung, Sumedang, Tasikmalaya and Sukabumi to remain open 24 hours a day before and after Idul Fitri.

"We particularly ask for nonstop service at gas stations situated along the main and alternative roads, or those which are prone to traffic congestion, such as the Sukabumi-Cianjur and Nagrek-Garut routes," the chief of Pertamina's Bandung division, Imam Sudiro, said on Tuesday.

He said his division had a stockpile of more than 38,600 gallons of gasoline, more than enough for the next 13 days. He also said the supply of kerosene and diesel fuel was sufficient for the next 12 days. (amd)