By Brigitte Leoni
BANGKOK, 18 January 2013
- Heavy rains caused massive flooding in Jakarta yesterday bringing the city to a halt with many government offices and businesses forced to close because employees could not get to work.
At least 20,000 people were forced from their homes and 11 people are reported to have lost their lives in Indonesia's capital.
Authorities have now declared a state of emergency until 27 January warning that rains will worsen in the next few days.
Jakarta like many other big cities in Asia is very vulnerable to flooding as it sits in a low-lying area with 13 rivers that overflow periodically. About 40 percent of Jakarta's land area is below sea level.
"Days of heavy downpours caused the rivers to overflow and triggered floods up to three metres," National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) Spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, adding that rivers in Jakarta had a low capacity to contain the monsoon rains. "It's serious because this is the capital of Indonesia and flooding can affect the economy locally and nationally" he stated.
"Thanks to good early warning systems currently in place, people were warned and evacuated in time. The city, however, was unable to absorb the huge quantity of water that inundated the capital in a couple of hours.
"What happened yesterday in Jakarta, happened in 2011 in Bangkok and last year in Manila and Beijing; governments and the private sector must work together and invest urgently in water and waste management systems that can cope with heavy and sudden floods. We know that floods will be more severe and frequent in the future so there is no time to lose. We have to find better ways to anticipate these recurring events," said Jerry Velasquez, who heads UNISDR's Asia Pacific Office.
"Economic losses due to disasters are rising and are mostly shouldered by the private sector" continued Velasquez. "As yet, we do not know what the losses will total this time in Jakarta, but it is clear that the private sector will be badly affected; many workers could not go to work today as trains and buses were suspended."
According to the Indonesian association of retail businesses, retailers are said to have already lost about 420 billion rupiah (US$43 million) after the first day of flooding,
The city's main airport is still open but many roads leading to it are reportedly blocked. Flooding was even reported at the presidential palace. Local news reports showed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, UNISDR's Global Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction, walking outside the Presidential Palace with pants rolled up to inspect flooding, which in some areas was waist-high.
Jakarta's government says flooding in the city is already the worst on record and the peak has not been reached yet. The 2007 floods caused nearly $500 million of damage in Jakarta alone and forced 600,000 people to leave their homes.
Natural hazards such as floods, tropical storms, extremes of heat and cold as well as drought are increasing in frequency and intensity. This 'new norm' comes with spiraling economic and human losses. Critical issues such as these and others are driving much of the ongoing global consultations that began in early 2012 to a design a successor to the world's first disaster risk reduction plan - the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) - which completes its 10 year term in 2015.
A successor global disaster risk reduction strategy will be agreed upon by UN Member States early in 2013 at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which will be held in Japan. An important precursor to this will be the 2013 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 19-23 May this year. One of the largest policy forums in Geneva, the Global Platform 2013 is expected to attract over 2,500 disaster risk reduction stakeholders and generate the first version of HFA2 on the way to 2015.