16 dead, thousands caught in floods in the capital of Indonesia

JAKARTA: The severe flooding in the capital of Indonesia when residents celebrated the new year killed at least 16 people, displaced tens of thousands and forced an airport to close, the country's disaster management agency said Thursday.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 169 neighborhoods and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on the outskirts of Jakarta, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo.

The video and photos published by the agency showed cars floating in murky waters while soldiers and rescuers in rubber boats helped children and the elderly to climb the roofs of flooded houses.

Floods flooded thousands of homes and buildings in poor and rich districts alike, forced authorities to cut off electricity and water and paralyzed transportation networks, Wibowo said.

More than 31,000 people were in temporary shelters after flood waters reached up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) in places, Wibowo said.

Up to 37 centimeters (14.5 inches) of rain were recorded in the mountainous areas of Jakarta and West Java on New Year's Eve, which caused the overflow of the Ciliwung and Cisadane rivers, the governor of Jakarta told reporters afterwards of conducting an aerial survey of the flooded city.

He said 120,000 rescuers were helping people evacuate and install mobile water pumps as more downpours were forecast. He promised that his city administration would complete flood mitigation projects in the two rivers.

The Director General of Civil Aviation, Polana Pramesti, said the floods submerged the airstrip at the Halim Perdanakusumah National Airport in Jakarta, forcing 19,000 passengers to be closed and stranded.

Floods were possible until April, when the rainy season ends. The floods also highlight Indonesia's infrastructure problems, as it tries to attract foreign investment.

Jakarta is home to 10 million people and 30 million live in its metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and floods and sinks rapidly due to uncontrolled extraction of groundwater. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $ 6.5 billion a year.

President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a sparsely populated Eastern Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo, known for rainforests and orangutans.