Floods hit up to 75 percent of Indonesian capital; 25 killed

Horse-drawn carts rescued residents from flood-stricken districts in the Indonesian capital on Monday after pounding rain caused rivers to burst their banks, killing at least 25 people and forcing some 340,000 to flee from their homes in recent days.

Clearer skies brought some relief on Monday, and witnesses said floodwaters were receding in several areas while levels at key rivers were dropping.

However, large areas of the city remained submerged under waist-high waters and officials warned that rain to the south, responsible for Jakarta's swollen rivers, might result in more flooding later in the day.

"We expect residents to stay alert because water may rise again and very fast," said Sihar Simanjuntak, an official monitoring the many rivers that crisscross this city of 12 million people.

The government has dispatched medical teams on rubber rafts into the worst-hit districts amid fears that disease may spread among residents living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean drinking water.

"We have to be alert for diseases like typhoid, those transmitted by rats and respiratory infections. Hopefully, there will be no dysentery," said Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari. "We know it's hard for the residents (to keep clean) under the circumstances, but they have to."

People living in one upscale area hired carts and horses to pull them to safety.

"The government is awful," said Augustina Rusli, who for five days was trapped on the second floor of her house with her 10-month old baby, expecting the floods to be short-lived. "We have a neighbor who is sick with cancer but no one has come to rescue her."

Jakarta's heavily criticized governor said he could not be held responsible for the worst floods to hit the city in living memory, saying they were a "natural phenomenon" that occur every five years.

"There is no point in throwing abuse around," Governor Sutiyoso, who goes by one name, told el-Shinta radio station. "I was up until 3 a.m. this morning trying to handle the refugees."

Incessant rain that starting falling Thursday on Jakarta and the hills south of the city triggered the floods. Tens of thousands of homes, school and hospitals in poor and wealthy districts alike were swamped.

Authorities estimated that between 40 percent and 70 percent of the city, which spans an area of 660 square-kilometers (412 square miles), had been inundated.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has forecast rain for the next two weeks.

As of Monday, 25 people had died, mostly by drowning or electrocution, officials said.

Dr. Rustam Pakaya, from the Health Ministry's crisis center, said nearly 340,000 people had been made homeless, many of whom are staying with friends or family or at mosques and government buildings, reports AP.

Jakarta regularly floods, though not on this scale. Dozens of slum areas near rivers are washed out each year. Residents either refuse or are too poor to vacate the districts.

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

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