"The most important thing is the people."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) Most parts of Jakarta were covered with flood water on Thursday crippling transports to the capital city, following incessant heavy rains since Tuesday.

Many office workers from suburban areas could not enter the city center as roads were cut off by the floods. Passenger trains from satellite cities such as Bekasi, Depok and Tangerang have to stop halfway to Jakarta forcing many passengers mostly civil servants and company employees to return home.

The toll roads leading to Jakarta from the three satellite cities were also inundated causing heavy traffic jams.

Jakarta`s Governor Joko Widodo on Thursday (Jan 17) declared the capital city in the state of emergency until January 27, 2013, following floods that killed five people so far.

The five-year-cycle floods have been predicted to hit Jakarta early this year, but some people said that this time was worse than the floods in 2007 that had submerged Jakarta and suburban areas and claimed more than 80 lives.

There had been rumors in 2007 that in order to protect the Presidential Palace from flooding, the Jakarta authorities had closed the Manggarai sluice gates in South Jakarta, diverting the flood waters to suburban areas such as Tangerang and Bekasi.

But the then vice president M Jusuf Kalla dismissed the rumors and said in February 2007 that "Let the Palace be flooded with water. The most important thing is the people."

In February 2007, Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng at the President`s residence in Cikeas, Bogor, also told the media "For the sake of the people, Jakarta`s governor should not be reluctant about the Palace and can use his authority to order the opening of the sluice gates." "If the flooding must go to the palace, let it go," Andi Mallarangeng said.

On Thursday (Jan 17, 2013), Jakarta`s main avenues including Sudirman, Thamrin and Medan Merdeka were flooded. The president`s palace, the palace of the vice president, and the office of Jakarta`s governor were inundated, too.

When receiving Head of the National Disaster Mitigation Board (BNPB) Syamsul Maarif who reported about the Jakarta floods to the president on Thursday morning (Jan 17, 2013), President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he did not mind that the palace was inundated, because the most imporant thing for him was the safety of the people being affected by the floods.

"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told BNPB Chief Syamsul Maarif that he would not have problem if the Presidential Palace was flooded, provided the public were protected," Head of the BNPB Data and Information Center Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said here on Thursday.

The President asked the agency to use all the available means to mitigate the impact of flooding. He also instructed Indonesian Police Chief General Timur Pradopo and the Chief of the Indonesian Defence Forces (TNI), Admiral Agus Suhartono, to assist victims of floods.

"The president has requested Jakarta`s governor to work closely with the military and the police. He is worried about the safety of the people affected by the floods," said Julian A Pasha, a spokesperson for the president, on Thursday.

The police should help evacuate flood victims, ease congestion on roads and protect homes that have been vacated, he said.

Indonesia`s police deployed 2,781 personnel to help handle the flood problems. "The personnel deployed to help handle the floods came from the National Police headquarters and the Jakarta police office," Rikwanto, a spokesman of the Jakarta police office, said here Thursday.

The Jakarta police set up a special team to help handle the flood problems, he added and sent 40 inflated boats and six cars to help evacuation efforts.

About 15,447 people in Jakarta are forced to evacuate themselves to higher ground following floods. A total of 94,624 people have been affected by the floods in the capital city.

Personnel of the Indonesian Army`s Special Force Command (Kopassus) have been deployed to help evacuate flood victims.

Kopassus Commander Major General Agus Sutomo said here on Thursday that he deployed among other things two detachments of personnel and two trucks.

The personnel were sent to Jatinegara, East Jakarta, which is among the worst flood-affected areas in the capital city.

The Indonesian Navy`s marine officers were also made standby to help the flood victims, Naval Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Marsetio said recently.

President Yudhoyono on Thursday afternoon observed the implementation of flood handling measures in Kalibata, Rawa Jati, East Jakarta.

Sailing aboard an inflated boat in the Ciliwung river, the head of state greeted the flood victims looking on from the banks.

He was accompanied by a number of ministers, including Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Agung Laksono, and National Police Chief General Timur Pradopo.

The presidential entourage stopped by at a refugee camp in Kalibata, where the President was joined by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono before the two started talking with the flood victims. The First Lady, however, did not accompany the President as he returned to the rubber boat.

Minister Agung Laksono said he has prepared 84 temporary shelters for about 19,000 evacuees in Jakarta.

"In case the flood is getting worst, we suggested people in the affected areas to stay in the temporary shelters until the situation is back to normal," he said.

Indonesia has been experiencing rainy season since November 2012. The rainy season is expected to last until March or April 2013. Floods and landslides have hit several provinces throughout Indonesia due to incessant heavy rains.

Reporter: by Fardah
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2013