Indonesia plans to disinfect flood-stricken capital
February 10, 2007 – 8:09PM

People camped out in shelters or under bridges in Indonesia’s flood-hit capital started returning to homes yesterday to clear away piles of mud and debris, as authorities prepared to spray Jakarta with disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease.

Rivers have burst their banks in some parts of the sprawling city, much of which remains inundated following the worst floods in recent memory, though waters have receded in recent days.

Electricity and phone service has been restored to tens of thousands of homes and traffic was slowly moving on roads previously rendered inaccessible, enabling many people to return to washed out homes.

“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 was sleeping. Like in most shelters visited in recent days, he said authorities and private organisations 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 four metres of water. Estimates of those made homeless topped out at more than 400,000 out of a population of 12 million.

Rustam Pakaya, chief of the Health Ministry’s crisis centre, 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 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 initially planned to deploy fire-trucks to spray disinfectant in hard-hit areas yesterday, but decided to wait until today.

“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.

The flooding in the capital has caused an estimated $US460 million ($A589.5 million) in damage.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week promised to seek more funds from the state budget to cover the cost of trying to prevent similar events in the capital in the future.