From: Ed Davies and Mita Valina Liem, Reuters
Published February 7, 2007 12:00 AM

Indonesia Flood Victims Face Stinking Garbage, Mud

JAKARTA -- Thousands of residents of the Indonesian capital began returning to their homes on Wednesday as flood waters receded, but they faced a huge task clearing up streets and homes caked in stinking garbage and mud.


The death toll from the floods, the worst for at least five years, rose to 54, a health ministry official said.


A lull in the recent torrential rains meant the waters had receded in some parts of Jakarta, which together with suburbs is home to an estimated 14 million people.


Water levels remained high in some areas, however, and some new flooding was also reported.


"I'm thinking about all my valuable things, because all my house is flooded. Only the roof is visible," said Wijiwati, a middle-aged woman in North Jakarta, who was having her blood-pressure taken by a military doctor.


Rustam Pakaya, an official at the health ministry, said fogging and spraying of disinfectant was being conducted, amid worries about dengue and other diseases carried by mosquitos breeding in the stagnant flood water.


He said water tankers capable of distributing 15,000 litres per hour had been dispatched, while 15 tonnes of medicine and 32 tonnes of biscuits had been sent to the worst-hit areas. In addition, 3,000 medical personnel had been sent out.


The floods that started late last week have sparked concerns over sanitation with so many camping out in make-shift shelters.


Health Ministry spokeswoman Lily Sulistiyowati said the number of displaced had fallen to about 260,000 from 340,000, although Pakaya said separately it had risen again.


In the Central Jakarta district of Pejompongan where waters had receded, residents were met by piles of garbage and mud covering their roads and houses.


In some areas, water trucks tried to hose away debris and fill tanks at houses where tap water was not back.


Excavators were clearing out piles of black dirt from a main road in Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta, a badly affected area.


Residents hung clothes and mattresses to dry outside their garbage-splattered homes.


Water in some slum areas nearby was still high, with garbage and dead animals blocking entrances to the crammed neighbourhood.


SUSPECTED MURDER LINKED TO FLOODS


The floods were blamed for a suspected murder and suicide in the North Jakarta district of Penjaringan.


A police official said a husband stabbed his wife to death after they fought over problems related to their inundated house late on Monday. He drank liquid detergent afterwards and died in a nearby hospital on Tuesday, police said.


"The couple liked to fight but it peaked during flooding. Nobody else was in the house as the others had evacuated," said Santoso, deputy chief of Penjaringan precinct.


There may be more flooding to come. Kompas newspaper quoted a meteorologist as saying rains may return in two or three days.


International help has started to trickle in with the European Union offering 600,000 euro ($800,000) and Holland, the former colonial ruler, one million euro.


The Dutch built Jakarta, then known as Batavia, on swampland.


Planning Minister Paskah Suzetta on Tuesday put an initial estimate of the economic cost of the floods at 4.1 trillion rupiah ($453 million).


Environmentalists blame the floods on poor planning in a city that has seen a huge construction boom since the financial crisis of the late 1990s, slashing the water catchment area.


Climate change had also played a part, Masnellyarty Hilman, a deputy environment minister, told Reuters.


"It's a natural phenomenon affected by climate change. It's been made worse by negligent behaviour." (Additional reporting by Achmad Sukarsono, Telly Nathlia, Ahmad Pathoni and Beawiharta)


Source: Reuters


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