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Jakartans usually associate Idul Fitri, which fell last Sunday, with deserted streets free from traffic jams following the mass exodus of people fleeing the capital to celebrate the holiday in their hometowns. They also associate it with tourist attractions packed with visitors.
But one thing people do not usually associate with Idul Fitri is somberness. Yet, that was what residents of Karet Tengsin, Central Jakarta felt when they celebrated Idul Fitri amid the rubble of their burned-out houses, which were destroyed during a fire on Aug. 6.
Marhadi, 53, the head of one of Karet Tengsin’s neighborhoods, said there were fewer festivities in his neighborhood due to the disaster, which left 565 families without a roof over their heads.
“When they meet their relatives during Idul Fitri, they usually joke around with them. But yesterday, their laughter was replaced with tears,” Marhadi, who has lived in Karet Tengsin since 1980, said on Monday. “This year’s Idul Fitri felt more like a time to grieve. Every time residents shook hands with one another, they cried.”
While Marhadi did not perform mudik (traveling to one’s hometown for Idul Fitri) because of his sense of duty to his neighbors, another resident, Junaidi, 58, said he did not return to his hometown in Garut, West Java, because he did not have the money to do so.
“I usually spend about Rp 500,000 [US$52] to take my whole family to Garut,” he said. “This year,
I need to use the money to rebuild my house.”
And as if to add salt to the wound, Junaidi also had to celebrate Idul Fitri without the holiday’s traditional dishes, such as ketupat (rice cakes), opor ayam (chicken in coconut milk) and rendang (beef stew).
“Usually, there are snacks like biscuits, nastar [cookies with pineapple jelly] and peanuts in my house. But there are no such things this year,” he said.
During this year’s dry season, the city has seen a spike in the number of fires, especially in densely populated neighborhoods.
Four major fires have broken out since the start of Ramadhan on July 19, with smaller fires frequently occurring across the city, including one on Aug. 17, which consumed a house in Gandaria, South Jakarta, and another on Aug. 18, when flames engulfed four private-business premises and two houses in Kalideres, West Jakarta.
To try to prevent other fires from breaking out, City Fire Agency chief Paimin Napitupulu said his officers would be on 24/7 standby throughout the holiday to monitor the city, especially in fire-prone areas.
The agency has identified 53 areas across the five municipalities as being well-known for their vulnerability to fires, including Tambora and Pademangan in West Jakarta, Penjaringan and Cilincing in North Jakarta, and Cipinang and Cakung in East Jakarta.
Paimin also urged residents to check the wiring in their homes before leaving for the holiday, as around 70 percent of Jakarta’s fires since the start of the year have been caused by short circuits.
A total of 530 fires were recorded between January and July this year, which together claimed 31 lives and caused losses estimated at more than Rp 172.4 billion, higher than last year’s statistics for the same period.
Residents of the recently fire-damaged neighborhood of Pekojan subdistrict in Tambora, West Jakarta, celebrated Idul Fitri by performing a mass prayer under a toll road in the area.
Sukanda, 50, a Pekojan resident, said that it was an annual event for residents to hold the prayer service beneath the toll road.
“But there were a lot more people crying during the prayer this year compared to usual,” he said in front of his house, which had a tarpaulin roof and plywood walls. “We were living in difficult circumstances even before the fire. But after that disaster, we have even more burdens than before.”
He acknowledged that there were far fewer festivities held in the neighborhood this year. “But, at least I still got to eat ketupat, even if it was only three spoons, courtesy of people from a nearby neighborhood,” Sukanda said. (han)