HotSpots H2O: Jakarta Reels from Heaviest Rainfall on Record

Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo © J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

The heaviest rainfall on record struck Jakarta last week, with some districts receiving over a foot of rain. Floodwaters then submerged large parts of Indonesia’s capital, a situation made worse by the city’s severe land subsidence.

Beginning on December 31, the downpours have affected cities and regencies across Indonesia. Rainfall on New Year’s day averaged nearly 2 inches, or 50 millimeters. In the greater Jakarta area, home to more than 30 million people, the deluge was the most intense since record-keeping began a few decades ago. Intermittent rain has continued since then.

As of January 8, the number of people killed in the disaster had reached 67. One person remained missing. At peak, an estimated 400,000 Jakarta residents were displaced from their homes, although the number decreased to around 28,000 this week. 

City officials fear an infectious disease outbreak could be imminent, prompting more than a thousand soldiers and health workers to spread disinfectant in the city. Diseases of concern include dengue fever and leptospirosis, a sometimes-fatal illness spread through rat urine.

Meteorologists warn that heavy rainfall could persist for the next month. Indonesia’s rainy season typically runs through February. 

Floodwaters are now receding, but experts are urging Jakarta to heed the recent deluge and bolster flood prevention measures. Green groups suggest harnessing natural resources to help avert future flood devastation, deploying measures that include protecting trees and groundwater.

Concerns about the city’s groundwater are far-reaching, as years of over pumping caused land to subside. Parts of the city have sunk by as much as 13 feet (4 meters) since the 1970s. Last year, officials announced plans to relocate Indonesia’s capital away from Jakarta, in part because of the unchecked land subsidence. 

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