Feb 09, 2007

Residents Clear Flood Waste in Indonesia

Deadly floods receded from much of the Indonesian capital Wednesday, leaving odorous debris blocking streets and a daunting cleanup for residents.

Officials said the floods had receded completely in more than half the affected areas. However, elsewhere, filthy waters were still six feet deep, shutting factories, shops and schools and cutting off electricity.

Government agencies estimate the number of homeless between 240,000 and 420,000.

Emergency shelters at mosques and schools mostly remained full, with doctors treating long lines of people complaining of diarrhea, respiratory problems and skin diseases.

The death toll was at least 50, mostly from drowning or electrocution, according to the Health Ministry.

Authorities warned that more rain over the city or the largely deforested hills to the south could trigger renewed flooding.

"In general, the water is continuing to recede further and many people are returning home," said Jakarta city spokesman Arie Budhiman. "I would like to say that the worst has passed us, but the weather can't be predicted."

As homeowners washed walls and hung curtains to dry, backhoes were deployed to shift piles of soggy mattresses, chairs and a thick layer of sludge from highways that had been under water since the floods struck on Feb. 1.

"The water is all gone, but the smell is awful," Fifa, an 18-year-old woman, said as she removed bits of wood and other rubbish from her house in downtown Jakarta. "At least we can get back to normal now."

The worst floods in recent memory to hit Jakarta were triggered by two days of seasonal rains, which caused the rivers and canals that crisscross the low-lying city to burst their banks, inundating rich and poor areas alike.

Government ministers have acknowledged that bad drainage, building shopping malls in water catchment areas and cutting down trees in the hills south of the city all contributed to the problem.

Foreign countries donated money and aid agencies distributed soap, towels and hygiene kits, even as the Indonesian government said it would not make a formal request for international aid.

The European Commission pledged $775,000, the United States gave $100,000 and the Netherlands offered $1.3 million for relief efforts.