JAKARTA, Indonesia – Residents working in waist-high mud salvaged family photos from washed-out neighborhoods as fresh rains Thursday triggered more flooding, compounding the misery for hundreds of thousands forced from their homes.
A week after the Indonesian capital was struck by the worst floods in recent memory, waters had receded in many middle-class districts, but conditions remained grim in narrow riverside alleys where the city's poor live.
At least 53 people were killed in the floods, while some 84,000 others have been treated for ailments including itchy skin, coughs or common colds resulting from contact with dirty water or exposure, the Health Ministry said.
In cramped and damp emergency shelters, mothers breast-fed babies close to piles of rotting garbage. Food and medicine appeared to be sufficient in several places visited Thursday, but authorities warned the spread of disease was possible.
"The rain comes in, the wind comes in, but we are stuck," said Muhammad Nahrowi, one of 5,000 people crammed into a school close to the hardest-hit districts.
Some 40 percent of areas previously flooded in the city of 12 million people were still submerged in muddy water, said Rustam Pakaya, chief of the Health Ministry's crisis center, citing data from aerial surveillance.
The government said between 240,000 and 400,000 people were still unable to return home.
"City officials have to start cleaning the debris if they want to prevent the spread of diseases," Pakaya said.
Overnight rain sent waters up to more than 3 feet coursing back into some areas, underscoring the challenges facing city authorities as they try to clean its streets and restore basic services.
"We spent yesterday mopping and scrubbing and now the waters have come again," said Haji Jajan, 52, as women and children peered from second-floor balconies at the steadily rising waters. "I'm tired, but what can we do?"
More downpours were forecast for the capital in coming days, and authorities warned flooding was possible until the rainy season ends at the end of next month.
Floods also occurred outside the capital, with some 106,000 acres of rice paddies and several villages, farms and businesses in west Java province in knee-high water, said a meteorologist who uses the single name Kiki.
The floods in Jakarta hit hardest in tightly packed riverside districts in Jakarta accessible only by foot and where whole families often live in a single room. Many houses were washed away or badly damaged.
Large areas of one such district, Kampung Pulo, remained under water Wednesday.
Residents trudged through filthy waters to the main road to pick up food and water. Where floods had receded, thick mud several feet deep in places meant homes were still unlivable.
"I would move if I could, but for that you need money," said Atoy Mansori, who is unemployed, as he and other residents recovered what they could from their homes.
Indonesia is hit by deadly floods each year, and Jakarta is not immune. But this year's have been the worst in recent memory, with some 100,000 homes, shops and businesses swamped in rich and poor areas alike.