Returning Home After Indonesia Flooding

Friday, February 9th 2007, 6:50 am
By: News On 6

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Tens of thousands of people camped out in shelters or under bridges in Indonesia's flood-hit capital on Friday as authorities announced plans to spray the city with disinfectant to combat the spread of disease.

Overnight rains caused rivers to burst their banks again in some areas of Jakarta, much of which remains under water following the worst floods to hit the city in recent memory.

``My baby has gone off her food and is not sleeping,'' said Nasikin, a 40-year-old man who along with 500 others is living under a bridge in east Jakarta. ``It is disgusting here. I cannot stand it anymore.''

A temporary clinic was treating patients close to where Nasikin _ who like many Indonesians uses only one name _ was sleeping. Like in most shelters visited in recent days, he said authorities and private organizations were delivering regular supplies of food.

Floods last week killed or have been cited as a factor in the deaths at least 57 people.

At their peak, officials said about half of Jakarta was inundated with up to 12 feet of water. Estimates of those made homeless topped out at more than 400,000 out of a population of 12 million.

Waters have receded across most parts of the city allowing residents to return and clean up, but scores of tightly packed settlements close to rivers that often suffer from floods during the rainy season remain inundated or covered in mud and debris.

Rustam Pakaya, chief of the Health Ministry's crisis center, said the number of people unable to return home stood at about 260,000. The number was dropping ``because the waters are receding,'' he wrote in a cell phone text message.

The Health Ministry said that one person had contracted leptospirosis, a potentially fatal disease borne by water contaminated by rat urine, but so far had recorded no cases of tetanus or other serious waterborne disease.

Authorities said they planned to deploy fire-trucks to spray disinfectant in hard-hit areas on Saturday. ``We have to clean up the city because dirt and debris have the potential to create disease,'' said Pakaya.

Indonesia is hit by deadly floods each year, and Jakarta is not immune. But this year's have been particularly bad, with some 100,000 homes, shops and businesses swamped in rich and poor areas alike.