Indonesia launches cloud-seeding operation in bid to alleviate deadly flooding

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A woman wades flood water in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP)
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Rescuers search for victims at a village heavily affected by a landslide in Cigudeg, West Java, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. (AP)
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A man navigates an inflatable boat at a flooded neighborhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP)
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People queue up to receive food at an aid distribution point for those affected by the floods in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 04 January 2020

Indonesia launches cloud-seeding operation in bid to alleviate deadly flooding

  • Two air force planes were deployed to inject sodium chloride over clouds in a bid to induce and break up rainfall before it reached the sodden greater Jakarta area
  • Extreme weather and heavy rainfall predicted until Jan. 10

JAKARTA: Indonesia has launched an emergency cloud-seeding operation to try and divert rain from the capital Jakarta where floods have claimed 53 lives and forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes.
Two air force planes were deployed to inject sodium chloride over clouds in a bid to induce and break up rainfall before it reached the sodden greater Jakarta area.
A storm on New Year’s Day left many parts of the city and its surrounding districts underwater, leading to a number of deadly landslides. Although the deluge has started to recede, vast areas remain saturated with water and more rain is forecast.
Authorities took the decision to use the chemical technique in an effort to alter precipitation and stop further heavy cloudbursts in the metropolitan area.
Hammam Riza, head of the Indonesian Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), said: “We have applied this technology to reduce the intense precipitation over the greater Jakarta area and curtail the risk of widespread inundation.”
Almost half of Jakarta is positioned below sea level and it is listed as one of the world’s fastest-sinking cities due to land subsidence and groundwater extraction. Successive governors have made pledges to fix the flooding problem but so far with little success.
The country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted more extreme weather and heavy rainfall until Jan. 10 for Java, which is Indonesia’s most populated island and where Jakarta is located.
BMKG chairwoman, Dwikorita Karnawati, said: “Climate change has altered the weather cycle a lot and shortened the extreme weather cycle from once in every decade, to once every five years, and now it is every two years.”
In March 2014, Indonesia’s current President Joko Widodo, who was then the governor of Jakarta, said it would be easier for him to resolve the capital’s flooding and traffic problems if he became president because he would be able to coordinate cooperation between regional heads.
However, now in his second and final term in office, Widodo has announced that his administration intends to move the capital to a location in East Kalimantan province by 2024, partly due to the ongoing situation with flooding and traffic jams.
Head of the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), Doni Monardo, said the cloud-seeding operation was expected to reduce rainfall by 20 percent.
The agency’s spokesman, Agus Wibowo, added: “There are up to 409,000 people affected by the floods and landslides in the greater Jakarta area. The vast majority of them (150,000) are in the city of Bekasi. It is also the hardest-hit area, where floods have reached up to six meters high.”
Wibowo said the majority of casualties were in Bogor, West Java, while the highest number of neighborhoods affected by the floods had been 85 in the Bekasi region of West Java on the eastern outskirts of Jakarta.
Head of the BMKG’s meteorology center, Fachri Radjab, said the New Year’s Day floods had been caused by an intense rainstorm that began on the afternoon of Dec. 31 and continued for at least 18 hours. In the Halim area of East Jakarta, 377 millimeters of rainfall was recorded causing an international airport to be closed due to its runway being awash with water.
The heavy rain resulted in rivers and canals overflowing, and the problem was made worse by clogged sewers. Many homes were left submerged and flash floods swept away vehicles.

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 26 May 2020

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”