Indonesia’s flood fear: Disease
POSTED: 0408 GMT (1208 HKT), February 10, 2007

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hospitals in Indonesia’s flood-hit capital were grappling with an influx of children suffering from diarrhea, authorities said Sunday as they fanned out to tightly packed low-income areas to disinfect against the spread of disease.

“We are overloaded here,” said Caroline Kawinda, a spokeswoman for Koja Hospital, which was treating 128 young patients from neighborhoods that had been inundated by water. “We’re very, very busy.”

Seasonal downpours last week caused rivers to break their banks in some parts of Jakarta, a sprawling metropolis of 12 million people, covering half the city in black, smelly water — the worst floods in recent memory.

At least 94 people were killed, most drowned or electrocuted, in Jakarta and its two neighboring provinces, Banten and West Java, said Suprawoto, who works with the national disaster agency. Like many Indonesians, he only has one name.

Waters have receded with a break in weather, allowing tens of thousands of displaced people to return home for the first time this weekend to clear away mud and debris, many finding that almost everything was lost.

“My home and everything in it was washed away,” said Titi Komala, a 38-year-old widow and mother of three. “Now everything is gone and I can’t do anything about it. If I had money I’d move, but I have nothing.”

High water levels had prevented sanitation officials from picking up the garbage that piled up in the streets in many neighborhoods, mixing with the floods. Roads have been transformed into massive swimming pools for many youths.

That has intensified fears about diseases, with the government saying besides diarrhea, three people have contracted leptospirosis, a potentially fatal disease borne by water contaminated by rat urine. So far no cases of tetanus or other serious waterborne disease have been reported.

Fire-trucks were deployed Sunday to spray disinfectant in hard-hit areas.

Suprawoto said the number of people forced from their homes had dropped from up to 400,000 at its peak to 77,200 on Sunday, but that the government would continue to operate makeshift refugee shelters for at least another week.

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