Indonesia's army de-ployed rubber boats in the capital's business district yesterday to rescue people trapped in floods that inundated much of the city of 14 million people. The president was pictured standing in water up to his shins, his trousers rolled up, at the palace waiting for the arrival of Argentina's leader on a state visit.
MOST WIDESPREAD FLOOD
The floods were the most widespread to hit Jakarta in recent memory. Authorities said at least four people were killed and 20,000 evacuated. Many more homes were inundated following around five hours of heavy overnight rain that coursed through rivers already swollen by a long monsoon season.
Few areas in the city were spared, from wealthy suburbs to riverside slums and gleaming downtown business blocks. Offices and schools were deserted and traffic ground to a halt. The international airport was operating normally, but travellers were finding it hard to get there.
"This is horrible," said Yanitha Damayanti, a bank teller stranded downtown. "For the first time in my life, downtown Jakarta has flooded."
The city has long been prone to floods, but successive governments have done little to mitigate the threat.
Deforestation in the hills to the south of the city, chaotic planning, and the rubbish that clogs the hundreds of rivers and waterways that criss-cross the city are some of the factors behind the floods. The city's vulnerability exposes the country's poor infrastructure even as it has posted impressive economic growth in recent years.