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Recovery efforts begin in the flood chaos of Indonesia.

By January 9, 2020

Indonesia (MNN) – Jakarta’s flooding, underscores the urgency of relocating the seat of power to East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Jakarta and surrounding areas like Banten and West Java, already below sea level and sinking,  recently saw its most torrential rainfall since 2007.  Even President Joko Widodo’s initial effort to see the devastation for himself and bring some aid went sideways when his helicopter couldn’t land in the bad weather.

To put it into perspective, according to the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, the equivalent of 72,000 Olympic-size swimming pools poured onto the city on December 31.   The drainage systems weren’t able to cope, and the resulting high waters killed over 60 people and displaced 175,000. As rescuers and villagers search for other missing individuals, the number of fatalities will likely increase.

(Photo courtesy FMI)

FMI’s Executive International Director, Bruce Allen says because schools were on a holiday break, “A lot of the schools have been used as evacuation centers.” Of the fatalities, “Most had been drowned, electrocuted or buried in landslides. When you have these landslides, rescue efforts are hampered because roads are gone.”

Getting started on clean up

More rain since then just added to the misery.  All the standing water brings with it the additional risk of waterborne diseases. On Sunday, January 5, cohorts of military and health workers sprayed the capital city with disinfectant.   Ironically, he says, “One of the things that is most needed is water, but clean water.”

Relief organizations have emergency supplies ready to go but Allen explains, “The biggest impact it has is people’s ability to get from point A to point B, especially in rural places where the roads would not be paved. They turn to thick mud and clay. Even if you’re riding a motorcycle, your tires are just spinning.”

(Photo courtesy FMI)

All that mud also makes flood recovery a filthy and risky job.  As people return to their homes after evacuating, he says, “It’s just filled with mud, and they need to wash their homes. But it’s an unfolding story, and the rescue and the cleanup will be for weeks.” In his tour of the region shortly before the December 31 deluge, travel conditions deteriorated between villages. With the big rain, he says, “Small bridges washout, the makeshift sort of bridges that people have over streams and creeks.  The streams and creeks swell. They rip the moorings off of the bridges and take the logs or whatever earth had been packed there to make the bridge.”

Hope, despite mud

However, he’s quick to add that the church planter network with which FMI partners is resilient. They’re used to monsoons and challenging conditions; it’s just that this rainy season isn’t typical.   Even so, “Even torrential rain was not dampening the spirits of the Christians who wanted to celebrate the birth of the Savior, nor of the Muslims who wanted to come and say ‘we’re curious, we want to know more about why Jesus came.’ They still came out in the rain.”

With follow-up plans hampered by the slowly receding high waters, Allen’s asking for prayer on several fronts.   First, “Pray for the government workers and community service workers. Whether these are Muslims or Christians involved in the care of the evacuees and of villages that have been demolished by landslides, that God would give strength and stamina, stamina for a very physically challenging and daunting work.” Then, pray wisdom and boldness for the body of Christ in the flood zone.  This is an opportune time to be the literal hands and feet of Christ to people in the affected community. “Pray for the pastors of the churches across Indonesia, that they would come to the forefront.  (Pray that they would) be leaders for compassionate care and teach congregations how to care for their neighbors in very practical ways.”

(Headline photo courtesy FMI)

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