JAKARTA ~ The nationâ€™s capital Jakarta is bracing for a potential repeat of deadly floods that inundated the city last February, with heavy rains forecast and thousands of personnel on standby, an official said on Thursday.
Last year’s floods covered much of low-lying Jakarta, killing 85 people, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and causing nearly US$1 billion worth of damage and losses.
Floods up to two meters deep hit several areas of the city after torrential rains on Wednesday but had largely receded, said the head of Jakarta’s crisis centre, Heru Joko Santoso.
He said however that meteorologists were forecasting heavy rains for January so officials were preparing for the possibility of a repeat disaster.
“Some 15,000 personnel from the army and police, as well as local officials, including some from NGOs, are standing guard for any eventuality in case big floods happen,” Santoso said.
He said that some workers had started work cleaning up rivers clogged by garbage – which help contribute to flooding – and improvements had been made to equipment at several sluice gates controlling waters entering the city.
“The rain intensity will be the same as last year, but as Jakarta has been running out of its drainage areas, we need to get ready,” he added.
The government blamed last year’s floods on a lack of natural drainage areas, which have been taken over by massive construction in Jakarta and nearby cities.
Then-governor Sutiyoso insisted however that the floods were a natural cyclical occurrence.
Old Batavia, the former colonial port under Dutch rule from where Jakarta expanded, was built on marshland and some areas of the capital are below sea level.