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.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.