Monsoon Rains Hit Indonesia Causing Massive Flooding In Jakarta

Jan 6, 2020
Originally published on January 6, 2020 7:37 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Indonesia, residents of the capital, Jakarta, have been forced to evacuate because of massive flooding there. Officials tell NPR nearly 70 people have been killed and some 36,000 displaced since the rains began nearly a week ago. The downpours are now subsiding, and some people are beginning to return home. NPR's Ashley Westerman reports.

ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: The rain began to fall on the Jakarta metro region on New Year's Eve, and it didn't stop for 16 hours.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD NOISE)

WESTERMAN: The scene in some parts of the city on New Year's Day was catastrophic. In this video posted to Twitter, cars are turned on their sides and swept down the street by rushing water.

BASTEN GOKKON: We couldn't go out anywhere because everywhere was just, like, you know, water.

WESTERMAN: Journalist Basten Gokkon lives in East Jakarta.

GOKKON: The water was brown. And you see all sorts of things, like plastic bag or cartons. But people were still, like, trying to walk in the water just to make sure that their stuff are safe.

WESTERMAN: The rain continued over the coming days. A lot of the megacity, where over 31 million people live, was submerged in water. Scenes on social media show inundated storefronts and evacuations on bamboo rafts. Agus Wibowo is with Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency. He says this is the worst flooding they've had in over a decade. Nearly 15 inches fell in just the first day.

AGUS WIBOWO: This is super extreme.

WESTERMAN: While flooding in the city is expected this time of year, Wibowo says more rain came down in more places this time. His agency is still helping evacuate people from low-lying areas hit by flash floods and mudslides. But cleanup has also begun where the waters have started to recede.

WIBOWO: So we are doing some cleaning and also some fixing for the road and cleaning the debris.

WESTERMAN: More heavy rain is expected in the coming weeks. Even before these floods, Jakarta has been sinking for years - so much that it's prompted the government to propose moving the capital somewhere else. But Gokkon isn't confident that this historic flooding will prompt more productive talks about climate change.

GOKKON: People still live by the river. People still litter. People still use their cars on the daily. If you talk about awareness and deep understanding of, you know, the effects of the climate crisis - I don't think so.

WESTERMAN: Ashley Westerman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.