Thousands caught in floods in Indonesia’s sinking capital

People walk through a flooded road after heavy rain in Jakarta on February 25, 2020. Dozens of Jakarta neighborhoods were flooded February 25 after torrential rains pounded Indonesia’s capital, less than two months after nearly 70 people were killed in some of the megacity’s worst flooding in years. (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Thousands caught in floods in Indonesia’s sinking capital

  • Indonesia’s meteorological agency is predicting rain for the next two weeks
  • The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Floods that have crippled much of Indonesia’s capital worsened Tuesday, inundating thousands of homes and buildings, including the presidential palace, and paralyzing transport networks, officials and witnesses said.

Overnight rains caused more rivers to burst their banks in greater Jakarta starting Sunday, sending muddy water up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) deep into more residential and commercial areas, said Agus Wibowo, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesman.

Floodwaters entered parts of Indonesia’s presidential palace complex Tuesday morning but the situation was brought under control with water pumps, said Bey Machmudin, an official at the Presidential Office.

The heavy downpour that hit the capital on Sunday had submerged the state-run Cipto Mangunkusumo hospital, the country’s largest hospital, damaging medical machines and equipment, Wibowo said.

Wibowo said the floods on Tuesday inundated scores of districts and left more than 300 people homeless, forced authorities to cut off electricity and paralyzed transportation, including commuter lines, as floodwaters reached as high as 1.5 meters (5 feet) in places.

Television footage showed soldiers and rescuers in rubber boats struggling to evacuate children and the elderly who were holding out on the roofs of their squalid houses.

Indonesia’s meteorological agency is predicting rain for the next two weeks.

The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.

Jakarta is home to 10 million people, with a total of 30 million in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of groundwater. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.

President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.

Severe flooding and landslides that hit greater Jakarta early last month killed more than 60 people, displaced hundreds of thousands and forced an airport to close.
Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, who was criticized when massive floods struck the city last month, blamed widespread deforestation in the southern hills, saying it had destroyed water catchment areas.

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.


Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”