The Southeast Asian country of Indonesia has been overtaken by the worst flood since 2007, according to the Jakarta Globe. The death toll has reached 86, and dozens of people remain missing.
Tropical storms and flooding are not uncommon to Indonesia, a nation comprised of many islands, especially during its yearly rainy season.
Indonesian Helman Sitohang explained that Jakarta, the country’s largest city with population of over 10 million, is naturally flood prone. Bounded by the Java sea to the North and Puncak highlands to the south, 40 percent of Jakarta sits below sea level.
Flood damage in Jakarta disaster
Jakarta resident Rizal Gozali said the extremity of this flood has been “shocking.” According to Gozali, water levels hit two meters (about six and a half feet) in certain areas. Schools have flooded, preventing children from attending school and ruining books. The basements of a few large buildings on the main street, Jalan Thamrin, were flooded, trapping and killing victims. Police have been patrolling the city with boats in attempt to monitor burglary but have had difficulty due to limited police force, insufficient torch lighting and the extent of area needing coverage.
Indonesian Robby Winarta described how many major roads in Jakarta became unusable due to the high water levels, including Sudirman roads, which he called “the Times Square or the 5th Avenue of Jakarta.”
Everyone in the city has been affected in some way by the flood.
“The recent floods were interesting as they affected people across all walks of life, from the poorest to the richest, to the president himself, as the Presidential Palace was also flooded,” Sitohang said.
Underdeveloped infrastructure adds to challenges
Sitohang does not believe rainfall is the only cause of these high water levels. He explained that two interlinked causes have contributed to the current flooding in Indonesia. Firstly, the waterways and sewage systems have been blocked by litter, preventing these important relief systems from operating properly. Secondly, as the population in Jakarta has continued to boom, infrastructure development has not kept pace and was unable to weather the recent storm.
“These will likely continue to be the case until people take better care of their environment,” Sitohang said.
According to Gozali, multiple dams within Jakarta broke down because they were not strong enough to hold such large amounts of water. Gozali explained the city government in Jakarta had recently made and effort to prevent such floods from occurring by building a new canal to direct water flow and by working to clean up sewage, but their attempts have been futile.
“Some people never learned,” Gozali said. “They kept throwing trash to the river nearby as if this was their backyard.”
Unfortunately, weather reports suggest the rain does not show sign of stopping.
“The people in Jakarta are counting on the government, especially our newly elected governor, to take quick action and work on a permanent solution,” Winarta said.
“One can only hope that in the aftermath of this awful event, that the people of Jakarta do not see this as a purely ‘natural’ disaster, but look at how they can modify their own behavior to help save their families and neighbors from facing this again,” Sitohang said. “It is a classic example of how money can only solve part of the problem, but it will require the efforts of the entire community to create a lasting solution.”