Floods inundate Indonesian capital, swamping markets, hospitals, homes

Severe storms caused the worst flooding in Indonesia's capital in five years Friday as rivers broke their banks, inundating thousands of homes and businesses and submerging streets in shoulder-deep muddy water.

Residents used inflatable rafts to retrieve belongings from washed-out houses, while scores of passengers were evacuated from a train in central Jakarta after tracks were submerged. Traffic was thrown into chaos, with roads cut off and drivers pushing stalled cars.

Seasonal rains often cause flooding in Indonesia, but a two-day deluge crippled the capital of 12 million people Friday. With no immediate signs the weather would improve, about 10,000 people fled their homes, said Anom Nurcahyo of Jakarta's Flood Crisis Center.

"It has not been this bad since 2002," when four-star hotels' lobbies were submerged and the presidential palace was flooded, he said. "We cannot say yet if the water will get higher."

Nearly 40 centimeters (more than a foot) of rain fell overnight, submerging low-lying inner-city slums and middle-class housing complexes on the city's outskirts. Many residents were forced to higher ground or the second floors of their homes.

At least four rivers in and around Jakarta had burst their banks, said Sihar Simajuntak, an official monitoring water levels.

"The water at my house was up to my neck," said Tina, a mother of three, as children from her neighborhood swam and played in flooded streets. Like many Indonesians, she goes by a single name.

Some Jakarta hospitals and markets were flooded, and schools and offices were closed. With many city roads inaccessible, commuters spent hours in gridlock trying to get to work. Many were unable to reach the central business district, and returned home, reports AP.

Electricity was cut to more than 22,000 subscribers in downtown Jakarta. Tap water was also shut off in some areas as a precaution against possible pollution.

There were no reports of casualties due to the floods.

A meteorologist forecast continuing downpours in Jakarta for the next two weeks.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile plains.

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