Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Residents brave floods to protect belongings

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Floodwaters have been rising in a number of residential areas across the city since Thursday morning, but many residents have chosen not to leave their houses belongings due to fears that their belongings might be stolen.

Many Jakartans insisted on staying and guarding their houses, although in some areas the flooding, which was blamed on heavy rains and a high tide, had reached 100 centimeters above street level in some areas.

"We will not leave our houses because we are afraid that our belongings will be stolen," Yanto, a resident of Kapuk Muara subdistrict in North Jakarta said.

The residents' vigilance was understandable as only a few police officers were seen around the areas during the floods on Thursday.

City Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo vowed that the police would deploy some personnel to safeguard homes abandoned by the residents seeking refuge away from the floods.

"We will also deploy our police personnel to monitor crime- infested areas to prevent crimes, like extortion and robbery targeting motorists trapped in traffic due to the flooding," said Prasetyo.

Stern measures could be taken by police on such perpetrators who take advantage of people during a natural disaster, Prasetyo said.

River floodgates, Prasetyo said, would also come under police protection during the floods.

The floodwaters on Thursday also engulfed Kampung Melayu and Bidara Cina subdistricts in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, the subdistricts of Serdang in Central Jakarta, Rawa Buaya and Kelapa Dua in West Jakarta and Cipete Utara, Petogogan and Rawa Barat in South Jakarta.

Part of Prof. Sedyatmo toll road linking the city with Soekarno-Hatta International Airport was also inundated by the floodwaters but no flight delays were reported. Traffic to the airport moved slowly due to the flooding.

Last year, several flights were canceled as massive floods hit the city in early February, including the airport toll road. The 2002 flood caused billions in losses, claimed 34 lives and displaced 384,294 people.

The floods, which have been a regular phenomenon in recent years here, angered some of the residents in Kapuk Muara.

Several residents directed their anger at City Governor Sutiyoso and his entourage, who decided to cruise the area in a boat.

"Mr. Governor, we'd rather you not visit us every year, and instead permanently rectify this problem," one of the residents shouted as he passed.

The residents and environmentalists deplored the city administration for allowing a developer to destroy a nearby mangrove forest for the development of the luxury housing complex Pantai Indah Kapuk in North Jakarta, which they blamed for the floods in the area.

Responding to the residents' complaints, a red-faced Sutiyoso yelled back, "Yes, yes, we will, we will (fix the problems) ...," but stopped short of offering any solutions.

The governor said heavy rains since early Thursday morning and the high tide on Wednesday night which reached 150 centimeters, had caused the floods.

Jakartans have been warned about possible floods, which were predicted to take place between Feb. 5 and Feb. 25.

The upcoming full moon -- and resulting high tide -- on Friday could bring another round of flooding, if it is accompanied by heavy rain.

Thursday's flooding also caused heavy traffic jams on the city's streets and delays in train departures and arrivals. Thousands of people, including city councillors, arrived late to work.

Spokesman for the Greater Jakarta division of the state-owned railway operator PT Kereta Api, Zainal Abidin, revealed that the delays occurred at Kampung Bandan station in North Jakarta which was inundated by water about 10 centimeters above the tracks, while the permitted height is less than five centimeters.

Train delays also occurred at Depok railway station, passengers reported.