“Jakarta is half drowned”, 1996
The 1996 flood in Jakarta was of unprecedented scale at the time, the first Jakarta flood in history to be seen officially as a “large scale disaster” (Sagala, Lassa, Yasaditama and Hudalah, 2013) – it led to the evacuation of 30 thousand and the death of 10. A contemporary newspaper notes the hardships faced by Jakartans:
“‘My family have evacuated. Leaving this house and everything in it, including the Kijang car in the garage.'” – Anto (30), visitor in Hard Rock Cafe in Jalan Thamrin
The article notes that the severity of the flood “is proven by the fact that the area within which the skyscrapers in Jalan (street) Thamrin-Sudirman is sited on is also flooded” and that tens of luxury cars have been submerged in South Jakarta. Thamrin-Sudirman Street is in the CBD area of Jakarta, the symbol of the modernity and development envisioned by Sukarno and later Suharto (Cowherd, 2002); the areas referred to in South Jakarta are private housing estates. While kampung were prone to flooding as they would occupy the treacherous riversides with little means of avoiding the flood (Voorst, 2016; Leeuwen, 2011), the private estates were usually provided with their own irrigation infrastructure (Sagala, Lassa, Yasaditama and Hudalah, 2013) or built on high ground so that flooding could be avoided.
The article quotes how some Jakartans were in trouble after losing their home:
“‘I don’t know where am I going to stay after this. You know, back when the Ciliwung flood incident happened, I actually took part in the donation for the victims. But now? I am the one who needs donation.'” – Anto
“‘If we left our house, we are afraid someone will take our belongings. It will be such a nuisance if that happens,'” – Suriansah, who decided to stay in their half-submerged house until the water ran off
However, the article does not note the scale of displacement and damage, especially for the thousands of low-income kampung residents who suffered the most from the flood – unlike the owners of the drowned luxury cars, kampung residents often have very limited means of replacing their property and coping with flood-related disease (Voorst, 2016).
This lack of mention may be related to the target group of the newspaper, the lack of information early on in the disaster, or the topic already having been covered – another reason may be the political environment. President Suharto was exercising strong control of the media at the time, and journalists faced the danger of being jailed for criticizing the government’s running of the country (Cowherd, 2002). The inability to point out government failures, such as the failure to straggle urban development, limited the voice of low income residents and the amount of publication about floods during the Suharto’s rule (Leeuwen, 2011).
Translation by Regina Tanya Tan, BA(AS)Y2, Faculty of Architecture, HKU
JAKARTA IS HALF “DROWNED”
18 February 1996
“It’sflooding again… it’s flooding again!” Thewordplay version from the Dangdut song Mabuk dan Judi is chanted by some kids in front of Gedung Sarinah (Sarinah building) from Jalan (street) MHThamrin, Jakarta. The kids were playfully rowing a “boat” out of Styrofoam, bisecting the water surface that overflowed the streets.
Yes.Jakarta is flooded again. Even much greater compared to Sungai (river) Ciliwung’s overflowing incident last month. This is proven by the fact that the area within which the skyscrapers in Jalan (street) Thamrin-Sudirman is sited on is also flooded. Without a doubt, the office activities in Jakarta that day are half-paralyzed. Everything is caused by the heavy rain in Jakarta since Friday (9/2) night until the next day.
“All my life, this is the first time I see this area getting flooded,” said Anto (30),a visitor of Hard Rock Café in Thamrin street. Saturday early morning, he and a friend of his was not able to get home because the car they are driving was stuck within the flood. “We even have to go out from the window, because the waters quickly drowned our car.” Anto said.
Only at 2PM, Anto then was able to go back to his home in Jalan (street) Bangka, Jakarta Selatan (South). Again, he had to accept the fact that his house was already submerged until chest level. “My family have evacuated. Leaving this house and everything in it, including the Kijang car in the garage.” Anto said.
Not far from Anto’s house, Ms. Demi can only dumbfoundedly observe her refrigerator and clothes floating above the waters. “Usually, flood only covers the street in front of our house. That’s why, when it rained, it did not occur to me to pack up my stuff,” said the one-child mother.
For now, Lady Demi and her younger sibling cannot stay in their submerged house. “I don’t know where am I going to stay after this. You know, back when the Ciliwung flood incident happened, I actually took part in the donation for the victims. But now? I am the one who needs donation.” He said concedingly.
Indeed, this time, the flood hits Jakarta indiscriminately. From slum areas to elite areas, each gets a taste of the flood. In Pulo Raya area, Jakarta Selatan (South), water have submerged tens (10-100) of houses and luxury cars. In this area, water level in Krukut river has been high since Friday midnight.
Saturday late afternoon, the water level have reached 1.5-2 m. Half of the residents have evacuated into a safe place. The other half chose to stay in their house.With the Fire Extinguisher Department’s inflatable boat, some people send drinking water, rice, and the side dishes for breaking fast to their respective families that still stayed in the house.“If we left our house, we are afraid someone will take our belongings. It will be such a nuisance if that happens,” said Suriansah, who is sending food for her relatives.
Near to Suriansah’s house, a family even have to break fast on top of their car, and another on top of the rubber raft. Even in a condition of getting hit by a disaster, they still try to smile during breaking their fast. “Even if we want to cry it’s useless right? So, well, just accept what it is.”
- Flood this time also submerged the area around the skyscrapers.
- In Thamrin street, a boy is resting on top of a “boat” out of Styrofoam, without a care for the passing cars.
- Walking amidst the heavy flood. Have to be careful so not to slip
- Flood in Pondok Karya usually only cover the streets, but this time it submerged all the houses.
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