Jakarta. A family of four was found dead from what is suspected to be gas poisoning from a portable power generator late on Thursday in their flood-affected house in Pulogadung, East Jakarta – the latest tragic addition to the death toll from the massive floods that hit the capital on New Year's Day.
The police suspected the victims – a 35-year-old man, his 29-year-old wife and their 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son – had inhaled poisonous gas from a small generator that the family used inside their home.
The incident was confirmed by East Jakarta Police head Chief Comr. Arie Ardian on Friday.
Arie said according to witnesses the family had turned on the portable generator on Thursday went the electricity was cut off in their area. The family then brought the generator into the house and went to bed with the doors and windows closed.
"They used the generator inside the house. It kept running when they were asleep. A neighbor delivering food the next day found them already lifeless," Arie said.
Since there was no sign of violence, the police suspected gas poisoning was the culprit. "That's what we suspect, we still have to wait for the autopsy results," he said.
The bodies of the victims are now at the Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta.
Portable power generators, popular with Jakartans who would turn them on during the city's frequent blackouts, are for strictly outdoor use only. These diesel- or gasoline-fueled small engines produce hazardous gases including the deadly carbon monoxide. The odorless gas can easily build up in a tightly closed room and, in high concentration, would kill an average adult in minutes, according to the World Health Organization.
The family's death comes a warning for Jakartans of another hazard that they must be aware of during floods.
State utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) deliberately cut off the power supply in flood-affected areas on Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid sending electrical current into floodwaters.
At least eight people have lost their lives from electric shocks during the floods in Jakarta and its surrounding satellite cities since New Year's Day, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said on Friday.
As of Friday morning, 491 locations in Greater Jakarta remain without power.
Agus Wibowo, the BNPB's head of disaster data, information and communication center, said on Friday the death toll from the floods had increased to 43. Most of the victims had died from hypothermia, drowning, electric shock or being buried under landslides.
The agency said more than 35,500 people are still taking refuge in evacuation shelters.