Jakarta. Lack of warning from the authorities might have contributed to the high number of victims during the New Year's Day floods and landslides in Jakarta and its surrounding cities, Social Affairs Minister Juliari Peter Batubara said on Thursday.
He said preventive measures, or lack thereof, play a crucial role during natural disasters.
Juliari said the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) should give earlier warnings of impending natural disasters to avoid casualties.
"The BMKG could have provided accurate information earlier, especially to residents in flood-prone areas. This would have allowed people to evacuate and prevent fatalities," Juliari said when visiting an evacuation shelter in Cawang, East Jakarta.
Jakarta residents have complained about the lack of information and warning before massive floods hit the city on New Year's Day. In previous years, residents living in flood-prone areas were usually informed when a flood was coming.
One evacuee in Cipinang Melayu, 33-year-old Yuli, said this year's flood was so sudden she wasn't able to keep any of her belongings safe.
"The water started to rise at around 1 a.m. on Jan. 1. It rose so fast, I couldn't take anything with me – only me, my husband and my two children," Yuli said. She had since been staying the night at the Borobudur University campus in East Jakarta, which had been converted into a shelter for evacuees from the Cipinang Melayu subdistrict.
"My husband's family has been living here for many years and they say this is one of the worst floods in the past few years. And this time there was no prior warning or information that a flood was coming. Our neighbors told us the water was rising. It came so fast," Yuli told the Jakarta Globe.
Life at Evacuation Shelter
Yuli was one of 962 Cipinang Melayu residents who were evacuated to the shelter. She brought her two children – one is a three-week-old infant – since her rented house was completely under water.
This shelter is managed by the Cipinang Melayu subdistrict administration with assistance from several ministries and the regional government. A health care center is already set up at the site with medical professionals on standby to help the evacuees.
Social Affairs Minister Juliari Peter Batubara with children at an evacuation shelter in Cipinang Melayu, East Jakarta, on Thursday. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)
Tirta Yudha from Kampung Siaga Bencana (KSB) Kampung Melayu, one of the local units running the shelter, said more flood victims were still coming in by Thursday. He also confirmed the death of one victim named Siti Hawa (79) from hypothermia. Rescue teams was not able to reach her in time since access to her home was blocked by the rising water.
Condition at the Cipinang Melayu shelter on Thursday. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)
Tirta said the shelter would continue to be open for as long as needed.
Yuli said the evacuees urgently needed clean underwear and sanitary pads. Tirta said they also desperately needed more cleaning equipment.