Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is seeking ways to prevent the inundation of the city’s main thoroughfares as officials warn of more flooding in the coming days.
Jokowi, who has been in office for more than two months, has ordered all related agencies to further investigate the cause of flooding in several new spots in the city.
“There must be something wrong and we’re currently looking for the answer,” he said on Tuesday. “Flooding is our priority; it’s not easy to deal with as it has been going on for so long. I ask people to be more patient, we’re working on it.”
Jokowi’s statement contradicted that of Jakarta Public Works Agency chief Ery Basworo, who claimed that the administration had done everything it could to mitigate the threat of flooding. He said that the heavy downpour over the weekend was the worst in the past five years and called it a “rare occurrence”.
Ery said that the rivers had been unable to handle the water from the city’s drainage system. “The rivers are not wide enough to receive the water; they can only receive 30 percent of the volume that entered the rivers on Saturday,” he said.
According to the agency, there are 41 pumps placed throughout the city. Ery said that ideally, a river should be at least 50 meters wide but currently, many rivers in the city were only around 15 to 20 meters wide. “So even if the pumps worked well, flooding was inevitable because the rainfall was too intense and the water could not be immediately channeled into the rivers,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, heavy downpours inundated several areas in the city again, including Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Gatot Subroto in Central Jakarta. Jokowi was scheduled to visit Petogogan in South Jakarta and Jl. Thamrin on Tuesday night to personally check on the situation.
Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Arfan Arkili has asked all subdistrict heads to be prepared as it was possible floods could recur in flood-prone areas, including Kampung Melayu and Bukit Duri.
“We have asked the subdistrict heads to tell residents to be prepared for flooding,” he said.
During the weekend, torrential rain led to floods and horrendous gridlock on several of Jakarta’s major thoroughfares which are not among the city’s 78 flood-prone areas. The flooding inundated a total of 19 subdistricts in the city, forcing around 7,000 people to evacuate.
The flooding has also claimed the lives of three children who drowned swimming in the overflowing Pesanggrahan River and a 70-year-old man who died from respiratory and digestive problems at a temporary shelter at Hermina Maternity Hospital in Jatinegara, East Jakarta.
In Depok, hundreds of houses in nine areas were inundated as the volume of rainfall over the weekend was double the city’s capacity to receive. Depok Public Works Agency Enco Kuryasa said that there were a total of 12 areas that were prone to flooding and landslides, making it hard for officials to help residents in those areas.
He said that the administration could only deploy four teams and an additional 100 personnel from the army to help flood and landslide victims.
“We apologize to residents because we can’t help everyone due to our limitations,” Enco said.