Indonesia Floods Kill 21; Affect Hundreds of Thousands

Heavy flooding in Indonesia's capital Jakarta, which began Tuesday, has killed at least 21 people and affected more than 250,000 people, prompting the United States to offer help for victims as residents complain of lack of food, water, clothes, shelter and medicine.

More than 18,000 people had yet to return to their homes as of Saturday due to the flooding caused by torrential rains in the low-lying city, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, locally known as BNPB.

Flood waters have swamped even downtown areas, including where the presidential palace is situated.

The death toll – mostly from electrocution and drowning – had reached 21 as of Saturday afternoon, according to authorities.

U.S. Ambassador Scot A. Marciel said in a statement that USAID office of U.S. foreign disaster assistance has offered immediate assistance to flood victims worth $150,000 through the BNPB and local leaders, The Jakarta Post reported.

"We offer our deepest sympathies to those affected by the terrible flooding in and around Jakarta. While the situation has affected thousands of people, I have been heartened by the selfless response of so many Indonesians to assist their fellow citizens and by the hard work and dedication of the Indonesian disaster response officials, police and military," Marciel said.

Private water operator PAM Lyonnaise Jaya cut its water supply to 250,000 customers in the capital after its reservoir was contaminated by oil as a result of the floods, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Residents are complaining about the administration's failure to provide help.

Christina, a volunteer in densely populated areas of Muara Angke and Teluk Gong in North Jakarta, was quoted as saying that the residents had not received any aid from the administration, forcing people like herself to voluntarily seek aid for the victims. "At least 200 families were isolated and they had received no aid until volunteers started to arrive," she said. "We finally established an emergency kitchen for the victims today [Saturday]. However, more basics are still needed, like blankets, medicines, milk and diapers."

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, locally known as "Jokowi," admitted that cash disbursements to city agencies had been slow.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has advised city authorities to monitor cases of water-borne communicable diseases, warning that a delay in treatment could pose more serious health risks.

"Floods do not necessarily lead to an immediate major increase in mosquito numbers, however it is important to track weekly case numbers and provide laboratory-based diagnosis to pick up the early stages of an epidemic," The Jakarta Globe quoted WHO representative Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat as saying.

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