By Mita Valina Liem
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Garbage trucks were out in force on Jakartaâ€™s streets on Monday for a huge clean-up of the city after a devastating flood, while nearly 200,000 people were suffering from flood-related illnesses.
The vast majority of the ill were not hospitalized, the health ministryâ€™s crisis center chief told Reuters.
â€œMost of the displaced suffer from diarrhea, dengue, severe respiratory problems. The number of out-patients is 190,000 and in-patients is 510,â€ Rustam Pakaya said.
Fears lingered that disease could spread as people stay in cramped emergency shelters or move back into houses often lacking clean water, plumbing and power.
However, emergency medical posts have been halved because most of the displaced have returned home.â€
At the peak of the flooding — caused by more than a week of rains in Jakarta and surrounding areas, which eased off last Friday — officials reported over 400,000 people were displaced.
By Monday the figure had fallen to under 59,000 in Jakarta proper, the national agency for disaster management said.
Jakarta has nine million people within its city limits and another five million in the immediate area.
The flood killed 48 people within the city and 46 in adjacent West Java and Banten provinces.
Survivors face the monumental task of clearing their homes of debris and mud left behind by the receding water. In some neighborhoods the mud was as much as two meters deep.
â€œJakarta has dispatched 150 garbage trucks to remove debris, mud, and garbage from the flooded areas. Nine-thousand personnel from the army and the police department have been deployed to help clear the areas,â€ said Suprawoto, spokesman of the national agency for disaster management.
â€œWhat we need is disinfectant, shovels, spades, hoes, school needs — uniforms, books and so forth — (and) wheelbarrows because garbage trucks cannot pass into small alleys,â€ he added.
Dead Animal Threat
The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) warned of the danger rotting dead animals posed for spreading disease.
â€œThe most dangerous waste is actually organic like animal carcasses because they could become places where flies hatch and communicable diseases go through,â€ said Arifin Muhammad Hadi, head of disaster management at PMIâ€™s headquarters.
Although relatively dry weather over the last few days has improved conditions in flooded areas, Indonesiaâ€™s rainy season has several weeks to run and could bring fresh downpours.
Officials and green groups have blamed excessive construction in Jakartaâ€™s water catchment areas for making the floods worse, while a deputy environment minister told Reuters last week that climate change contributed to the problem.
Above low-lying seaside Jakarta are foothills that have lost much of their vegetative cover to construction of weekend homes and golf courses, making it harder for the ground to retain water from the deluges common in the rainy season.
Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono played down concerns over long-term crop damage and said the country should be able to lift its key 2007 rice output target by up to 3 million tonnes.
â€œWe are more concerned with the affect of drought which may cause a potential drop in output,â€ the minister told reporters.
Some economists and government officials have warned of an inflationary spike from the flooding, which also hit some retail and manufacturing operations.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told reporters regional governments in Jakarta and its satellite cities were still counting the cost of the damage.
Indonesiaâ€™s rupiah currency has held firm against the dollar, while at mid-morning on Monday the Jakarta Stock Exchangeâ€™s key index was down less than 0.2 percent.