Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Heavy flooding and major traffic jams have paralysed entire sections of Jakarta, including the sub-districts of Ciledug, Bintaro, Tanan Kusir and Tangerang. The Indonesian capital is prone to natural disasters like saltwater intrusion in the north from the Java Sea as well as man-made problems like traffic, which can bring the city to a halt during rush hours. But today, the situation was so bad that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had to cancel an official meeting with his Argentinean counterpart, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is on an official visit to the Asian nation, because of flooding in the capital.
Flooding in Bogor Regency is the result of heavy rains that began in the early hours of Tuesday. This was made worse by the water overflowing the city's channels inundating streets and squares, with traffic gridlocked as long lines of vehicles struggled to move.
"I spent almost six hours in the public bus where thigh-high flood inundated the main access road from Ciledug to Sudirman," said Rosalia, a native resident in Ciledug and an employee in the main business area in Central Jakarta.
Flooding reportedly closed schools and blocked roads in West Jakarta.
Sister Yohana AK, a nun from Abdi Kristus in St Mikael Elementary School in Sumur Batu, Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta, told AsiaNews that her school was also forced to close because of "thigh-high water" in the building and the entire area. The nuns' housing compound was also damaged by rising flood waters.
In Kalibata, South Jakarta, more than 3,000 people were forced from their homes. In Tebet, a thousand people were stranded when their cars and motorbikes were stuck in a heavy traffic jam after the main road was inundated.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo said that at least 50 sub-districts across the capital were under water with more than 10,000 'temporary refugees'.
Heavy flooding in Jakarta, explained the National Mitigation Agency's spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, was triggered by the Ciliwung River, Jakarta's main river, which cannot be contain high waters from heavy raining.
Environmentalists blame increasing deforestation and unconstrained urbanisation, especially in Puncak Pass, a mountain area in Bogor Regency, for the problem.
For experts, disruptions in the ecological balance in the areas around the capital have had a huge impact on the environment, so that the ground is no longer able to absorb above average amounts of rain water.