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Stay alert on floods: Jokowi

Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on the city’s residents to remain alert to anticipate major floods that could hit Jakarta on Sunday, although he also indicated that the worst flooding had now already occurred.

Calming widespread rumors, Jokowi said he had spoken with Public Works Ministry officials in order to prepare for anything, including a worse case scenario, in order to minimize the risks, but declined to elaborate on those risks.

“I’ve met [with the ministry officials] to anticipate all aspects related to floods,” the governor told journalists on Friday, but was quick to add that he hoped the flooding did not materialize.

Jokowi called on the city to be more alert and cautious.

The governor said he had also requested that the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) perform rain engineering to stop the downpours, especially on Sunday.

“One thing we can do is ask the agency [for help] so that rainwater doesn’t flow into the rivers when we have a high seawater level,” he said.

Following the devastating floods that hit Jakarta earlier this month, the governor declared the city to be in a state of emergency from Jan. 17 up to Jan. 27, to enable the local authorities to take extraordinary measures.

His decision on the date was in line with subsequent expert advice that the peak of the disaster would take place on Sunday, where a full moon, triggering high tides, would coincide with heavy rain across Greater Jakarta.

National and local media outlets recently quoted Firdaus Ali, a water expert from the University of Indonesia, as predicting that the rainfall would keep increasing until Jan. 27.

Firdaus also predicted that on Jan. 26-27, when tides would rise due to gravitational forces exerted by the moon, the sun and the rotation of the earth, rainwater and water from upstream would flood all parts of Jakarta as excess river water would not be able drain off into the sea.

The scholar said the upcoming floods would probably be even worse than those of 2007 that killed more than 80 people and displaced 200,000. Firdaus issued his prediction a day after Jokowi declared the state of emergency, and the combination of the two statements has understandably triggered concern.

However, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho calmed public fears and said that the possibility of Jakarta experiencing a massive flood on Saturday or Sunday was small.

“Sea levels will rise 1-meter higher than normal levels on those days, but only a high and continuous intensity of rain would cause a flood as bad as February 2007. The rainfall on the dates will likely be a medium level,” he said.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has also reported that rain intensity between Jan. 25-28 will range from light to medium.

Eko Haryadi, a Jakarta administration spokesman, said that the administration acknowledged the probability of floods on Jan. 26-27, but added that no special preparation was being carried out by the administration.

“The governor has declared a state of emergency in the capital until Jan. 27, so yes, we have prepared for floods ever since that declaration. However, we’ve made no special preparation for Jan. 26-27 as according to the BMKG, rains on those two days won’t be heavy ,” Eko said.

“The public doesn’t need to panic, but it must stay alert as Jakarta is still in the state of emergency. Just remember that workers from related agencies, police officers and army personnel will be on duty at available posts.” (aml/fzm)

Jakarta fact box

• In November 2007, 220-centimeter high tides coupled with broken embankments in North Jakarta caused flooding in several parts of the city and heavy congestion on airport toll roads. Several flights were also delayed due to the floods.

• In December 2007, flooding caused by high tides put the coastal Muara Baru in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, under water.

• High tides coincide with a lunar event that occurs approximately every 19 years.

• Severe floods previously hit Jakarta in 1621, 1654, 1918, 1942, 1976, 1996, 2002 and 2007.

• Around 24,000 hectares or 40 percent of Jakarta’s land mass is lower than sea level.

• As many as 13 rivers flow from Bekasi, Bogor, Depok and Tangerang to Jakarta; the Angke; Baru Barat; Baru Timur; Buaran; Cakung; Ciliwung; Cipinang; Grogol; Jatikramat; Krukut; Mookevart; Pesanggrahan, and Sunter rivers.

From Various sources

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