Generous neighbors prepared for another flood

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With torrential rain pounding Jakarta over the weekend and on Monday, community groups are preparing for the possibility of more flooding and reopening their doors so people can stay dry.

Just as people began to return to their homes after the massive flooding that affected 45-75 percent of the city earlier in the month, driving rain has again forced them to pack their bags.

Netherlands International School (NIS) in Cilandak, South Jakarta, which provided shelter for victims during the flood two weeks ago, again took in more than 200 people whose houses were submerged last Friday.

The school’s spokeswoman, Karen Peters, said a sluice gate, which had been closed as the water levels fell, was reopened Friday, sending water gushing toward the kampong near the school.

“They (flood victims) had all gone home Saturday. However, we’d left the mattresses out on the gymnasium floor, just in case,” Peters told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

During the flood that began on Feb. 2, some 300 families from neighborhoods around the school stayed in the school’s gymnasium or pendopo (hall).

Karen said only women and children had stayed in the pendopo. “The dads stayed in the hallway outside the pendopo.”

She said the school had established a system, whereby if the area flooded again the teachers would work shifts to care for the refugees.

“At first there was only three of us from the school, now all the teachers are taking part in the work,” she said.

Meanwhile, in the house of a Swedish Embassy official, 32-year-old Ulf Samuelsson, a similar thing was happening.

Samuelsson’s upscale home in Kemang was once again filled with the laughter and chatter of women and children Monday.

During the flood, 75 people had stayed there, leaving only when the floodwaters receded.

“My guests left last week, and from Sunday onward the house was empty. However, on Friday, the water level rose again, so my neighbors came back to stay,” Samuelsson said.

He described the current situation as “Back and forth. Back and forth”.

“I don’t mind. They can stay for as long as they like,” he said.

Ria Tahir, the Indonesian Red Cross’ spokeswoman for Jakarta, told the Post the organization was still working on post-flood measures. “We’re currently focusing on sanitation.”

She said Red Cross staff remained on standby.

“All our five chapters in Jakarta are on alert. If it floods again, we will set up posts and deploy our staff.”

Citra Indah Lestari, the spokeswoman of philanthropy organization the Sampoerna Foundation, said the possibility of an emergency was still there.

The organization set up public kitchens in tents when the flood hit Jakarta two weeks ago. She said if another flood hit the city, they would concentrate on educational activities for schoolchildren.

“We might set up posts, working with other organizations to focus on the continuity of education.”

Peters said she hoped there would be no more rain. She said while NIS had a system to accommodate refugees, a solution was needed so people were not forced from their homes at a time when they most needed a roof over their heads to keep them dry.