November 24, 2020

Jakarta flood victims recount ordeal, experts warn worst is yet to come

4 min read

JAKARTA: Mr Fajar Rizaldin Harisantoso had just ushered in the New Year at a cafe in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta amid a heavy downpour when he received a message from his family. 

His family members, who were panicking, said the neighbourhood was flooded and water had begun to enter his two-storey house. 

There were seven people in his house, including an aunty who is a stroke patient. 

“By 7am on Jan 1 (Wednesday), it was still raining heavily and I decided to take a different route home. However, I could only reach 50m away from my house.  

“I was afraid because my aunty can’t walk to our upper floor, while water has flooded the first floor and it kept rising,” Mr Harisantoso told CNA.

A flooded street in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, on Jan 2, 2020
A flooded street in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, on Jan 2, 2020. (Photo: Fajar Rizaldin Harisantoso)

When the rain finally stopped at midday, the flood at his neighbourhood was 1m deep but he braced himself to get into the water to get home.

READ: Staying in Jakarta: Will a great sea wall protect Indonesia’s capital from coastal flooding?

“I was anxious because I was thinking of my family’s safety, especially my aunty’s.”

Help only arrived at around 5pm when his young neighbours came to their rescue with an inflatable boat.

“We carried my aunty to the boat because she can’t walk, and then I took her and my nephews to my cousin’s place.

“After that, I had to head back because my mother, my elder sibling and helpers were still home. The water hadn’t receded,” Mr Harisantoso said.

An elderly woman is being evacuated on an inflatable boat by a rescue team, after floods hit a resi
An elderly woman is being evacuated on an inflatable boat by a rescue team, after floods hit a residential area in Depok, south of Jakarta, Indonesia January 1 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Akbar Nugroho Gumay/via REUTERS

They spent the night at the second floor without electricity because authorities had cut off the supply in flooded areas to avoid electrical shocks.

They were lucky they had leftover food from New Year’s celebration, he said.

Power supply was eventually restored on Thursday morning, with flood waters gradually subsided in most areas in Jakarta, including Mr Harisantoso’s place.

A house is flooded in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, on Jan 2, 2020
Mr Fajar Rizaldin Harisantoso’s house in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, is still flooded in on Jan 2, 2020. (Photo: Fajar Rizaldin Harisantoso)

RECURRING DISASTER

Jakarta regularly experiences floods during the rainy season. 

Mr Harisantoso’s house was also inundated in 2007 when most parts of the capital was flooded, causing business activities to come to a standstill. 

He noted that rescue came earlier back then, about eight hours after the water entered their house.

As of Thursday afternoon, flood water at Mr Harisantoso’s house has receded to his knee level but the Meteorological, Climatological, and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) predicted that heavy rain would continue in Jakarta and other regions in Indonesia in the next few days.

A house is flooded in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, on Jan 2, 2020
A scene at Mr Fajar Rizaldin Harisantoso’s house on Jan 2, 2020. (Photo: Fajar Rizaldin Harisantoso)

Mr Harisantoso said there was not much they could do, apart from evacuating their family members and moving their belongings to the upper floor.

He said he had already elevated his house after the 2007 floods.

READ: Singaporeans in Jakarta advised to prepare for possible further flooding

In the whole of Greater Jakarta, at least 23 people lost their lives in this week’s floods, including eight in Jakarta. 

About 30 million people reside in Greater Jakarta.

Mr Roby Medika Putra, who lives in Bekasi city located about 20km east of Jakarta, was also affected by the floods. 

On Wednesday morning, the water in his house was as high as his thigh.

“We tried to save everything we could, and move them to the second floor. The water rose so quickly,” the 25-year-old told CNA.

A home is flooded in Pondok Hijau Permai, Bekasi, on Jan 2, 2020
Mr Roby Medika Putra has to take leave from work to clean up his house in Pondok Hijau Permai, Bekasi, on Jan 2, 2020. (Photo: Roby Medika Putra)

While water had started to retreat on Thursday morning, Mr Putra said they still have no electricity and clean water supply.

“We are now cleaning up,” said the bank employee who had to take leave from work.

PREPARE FOR THE WORST

Jakarta-based urban planning expert Nirwono Joga explained that Greater Jakarta usually experiences four different types of floods.

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,” Mr Joga said.

READ: 9 dead after Indonesian capital hit by New Year flooding

The third type of flood is tidal flood, when seawater rises during full moon, inundating settlements on Jakarta’s northern coastline.

Then, there is the most severe flood, which is when all three aforementioned types of floods happen at the same time.

“This has happened in 1996, 2002, 2007, and at the end of 2012 to the beginning of 2013,” Mr Joga told CNA.

A rescue team evacuates locals on an inflatable boat during a flood after heavy rain in Bekasi, nea
A rescue team evacuates locals on an inflatable boat during a flood after heavy rain in Bekasi, near Jakarta, Indonesia January 1 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Saptono/via REUTERS

Mr Joga said the New Year flood is a combination of type one and type two, and he warned residents to be prepared for the worst.

“The peak of the rainy season is between Feb 1 and 15,” he said.

READ: Indian Ocean safer from tsunami threat but gaps remain in early warning system

The meteorological agency has said that extreme weather will hit Indonesia until mid-February.

The Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology has offered to tackle the flooding by using weather modification to redirect rain elsewhere. 

The government has also set up at least 300 evacuation shelters in Jakarta and surrounding cities to accommodate about 30,000 evacuees.

A home is flooded in Pondok Hijau Permai, Bekasi, on Jan 2, 2020
Mr Roby Medika Putra’s house is in a mess on Jan 2, 2020 after floods hit. (Photo: Roby Medika Putra)