JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia declared a state of emergency in Jakarta as a third day of flooding brought traffic to a standstill in the city of 9.6 million people and swamped the offices of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The floods killed five people — including a two-year-old who drowned after falling off his bed — according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Agency for Disaster Management.
Yudhoyono met Thursday with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner after a delay, and is scheduled to host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Friday.
“Rain intensity will remain high until next week,” Governor Joko Widodo said in a statement. The state of emergency will stay in effect until Jan. 27 to allow authorities to respond quickly to floods, he said.
The floods have disrupted businesses, stranded travelers, and prompted evacuations of more than 15,000 people in low-lying areas of the capital, which contributes about 16 percent of Indonesia’s economic output.
Water levels are higher than in 2007, when more than 600,000 people fled their homes amid electricity and telephone outages.
Jakarta’s main flood gate near the presidential office saw waters topping 10 meters, risking wider flooding in a key downtown area.
Television footage showed Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa with their pants rolled up wading through about 30 centimeters of water in the presidential compound.
“It doesn’t matter if the Presidential Palace is flooded,” Yudhoyono said in a statement sent by the disaster management agency. “The most important thing is that the public is protected.”
Yudhoyono instructed national police to safeguard affected homes and the army to send rubber boats, trucks and medical teams. Of the five deaths, two were from electrocution, Nugroho said.
Flights to and from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport were operating normally, Kristanto, a public relations manager at state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II, said by phone.
The company arranged trucks and buses to pick up passengers who cannot reach the airport because of the floods, he said.
Still, many travelers were stuck as rising waters made roads impassable, including Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Jakarta’s main thoroughfare. Cars sat abandoned and people waded through waist-deep water, pushing against a strong current in some areas.
Bill Barnett, managing director of Phuket-based hospitality consultant C9 HotelWorks, said he spent four hours trying to get to the airport before turning back to his hotel.
“While the airport might be open, you can’t get there,” Barnett said in an e-mail. “What a mess. Lots of people trapped at hotels and no one seems to know what to do.”
Jakarta sits in a low-lying area with 13 rivers and more than 1,400 kilometers of man-made waterways, making it prone to flooding, according to the World Bank. About 40 percent of Jakarta’s land area is below sea level.
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