Residents of Indonesia’s capital who had been forced into shelters by widespread flooding began returning to their homes Thursday as the waters started to recede, though the death toll from the disaster jumped to 30.
Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 182 neighbourhoods in greater Jakarta starting Wednesday and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on the city’s outskirts.
Jakarta Gov. Anies Bawesdan said much of the water had receded by Thursday evening and the number of displaced people at temporary shelters had fallen to about 5,000 from 19,000. Officials had earlier said 35,000 people were in shelters across the greater metropolitan area.
Those returning to their homes found streets covered in mud and debris. Cars that had been parked in driveways were swept away, landing upside down in parks or piled up in narrow alleys. Sidewalks were strewn with sandals, pots and pans and old photographs.
Authorities took advantage of the receding waters to clear away mud and remove piles of wet garbage from the streets. Electricity was restored to tens of thousands of residences and businesses.
At their peak, the floods had inundated thousands of homes and buildings, forced authorities to cut off electricity and water and paralyzed transport networks, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said. Flood waters reached as high as 2.5 metres (more than 8 feet) in places.
Wibowo said the number of people killed in the disaster had climbed to 30.
It was the worst flooding since 2013, when 47 people were killed after Jakarta was inundated by monsoon rains.
Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusumah domestic airport reopened Thursday after operations were suspended when flood water submerged its runway, said Muhammad Awaluddin, the president director of PT. Angkasa Pura II, the airport’s operator. Nearly 20,000 passengers had been affected by the closure.
In Jakarta’s satellite cities of Bekasi and Tangerang, where rivers had burst their banks, large areas remain inundated.
Residents of Bekasi waded through water up to their necks or floated on makeshift rafts carrying clothes and other salvaged possessions. Some scrambled onto roofs to await rescue from soldiers and emergency workers in rubber dinghies.
“The government is awful and the rescue effort is too slow,” said Imas Narulita, who spent 36 hours on the second floor of her suburban house with her 6-month-old baby.
She said that she have a neighbour who is sick but no one has come to rescue him.
“In this modern time, no one should have died because of this,” she said.
Social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara said the government dispatched medical teams and rubber rafts to the worst-hit areas, while rescuers in boats delivered instant noodles and rice to those who chose to stay on the upper floors of their homes.
The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.
Jakarta is home to 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $6.5-billion a year.
President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.
Widodo told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday that one of the causes of flooding is due to damage to the ecosystem and ecology in addition to many people who throw garbage into rivers.
He said that the government is working to mitigate and prevent flooding in regions across the country. Especially in Jakarta, the construction of West Java’s Cimahi and Ciawi dams is expected to be completed by next year.
“Both the central and regional governments would work together to solve the problem,” Widodo said.