Indonesia

Flash floods in Indonesian capital trigger traffic chaos

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Jakarta (dpa) - Ten hours of torrential rains caused widespread flooding Thursday throughout Indonesia's sprawling capital Jakarta, forcing more than 40,000 people to flee their homes and creating traffic chaos.

By mid-day Thursday, floodwaters had risen to more than one-metre in various residential areas, blocking several main roads in the metropolis of some 11 million people. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Several flights were delayed at Sukarno-Hatta International Airport because airline pilots and crew members got stuck in traffic en route to the airport, situated 30 kilometres northwest of the Jakarta's business centre, the Suara Pembaruan newspaper reported.

Government officials issued warnings for people living along the banks of the Ciliwung, Sunter and Pessangrahan rivers - the three main rivers passing through the city - that the flooding may worsen after 4 p.m. when water from upstream areas was expected to hit the capital, inundating at least 22 subdistricts.

Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim appealed to people fleeing their homes to carry enough spare clothes and medicine for the sick, and not to forget to bring identity and household registration documents with them to temporary shelters being set up by the city government.

"The Jakarta city administration is now on full alert. By this (Thursday) afternoon, it's expected the upstream waters will come into the capital," Makarim told Elshinta radio, adding that the flooding in Jakarta will last for at least three days.

"We will announce around the clock on radio stations what people should do as well as what will happen next. This will go on during the next three or four days," Makarim said.

Eyewitnesses said hundreds of residents living in flood-threatened areas have started packing items, in particular electronic goods they want to save from the flood waters.

In the Central Jakarta suburb of Kemayoran, the floods have forced more than 24,100 people to flee their homes seeking shelter at schools, mosques and other public buildings, the official Antara news agency reported.

More than 9,000 residents from a number of other areas were fleeing their homes, especially the suburb of Kapuk Muara, as flood waters rose to one-meter high.

In the South Jakarta suburb of Pondok Labu, more than 5,000 residents were forced to abandon their homes and seek refugee at higher ground nearby as floodwaters inundated their houses.

To the west, more than 1,000 residents from several areas were evacuated to higher ground, at mosques, schools and public buildings. The floods also forced the closure of schools in several parts of Jakarta.

"We have been forced to close the school activity today because school children were unable to reach here as floodwaters outside have reached waist-height," said Samuel, an official at Tarakanita private school in south Jakarta's Kampung Sawah.

Weather experts have warned that heavy rains would continue in Jakarta and other Indonesian islands in the coming days as a result of an emerging fresh tropical storm in the area.

Heavy flooding also swept through the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in 2002, killing at least 34 people and causing widespread damage.

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