Indonesian Authorities Order Mass Fowl Slaughter to Address Bird Flu Outbreak

Residents handed over hundreds of chickens and other fowl for slaughter Friday as authorities in Indonesia's capital scrambled to stop the spread of bird flu after a spike in human deaths.

They were surrendering their birds before a Feb. 1 deadline after which the Jakarta governor has said officials will go door-to-door confiscating fowl in a plan to rid its teeming streets of backyard chickens.

"Bird flu is a frightening diseases because the survival rate is so low and so I am asking all people to take steps to minimize the danger," said Governor Sutiyoso, who goes by a single name. "Starting on Feb. 1, I will show no tolerance."

The birds handed over Friday in a poor district of eastern Jakarta had not been tested for bird flu and were believed to be healthy. They were slaughtered and then placed in a hole in the ground before being set alight.

Indonesia has seen 61 human bird flu deaths since 2004, the most in the world. Four people have died in Jakarta so far this year.

Indonesia has come under fire for failing to make adequate efforts to fight H5N1 and has largely failed to follow through on earlier promises to stamp out the virus through mass culls.

It remains to be seen whether the latest campaign will be a success, as it is likely to face resistance from bird owners in the city of 12 million people and because it also needs the commitment of its underpaid officials.

There are estimated to be around 350 million backyard chickens throughout Indonesia, many of which are kept outside houses in the capital and surrounding towns. The health minister said this week that nine other provinces hard-hit by bird flu would also soon ban chickens from residential areas.