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Jakarta braces for floods during Lunar New Year period

The Indonesian capital is bracing for more wet weather and thunderstorms until early February. Recent heavy rains have already left several areas of Jakarta inundated with flood waters.

JAKARTA: The Indonesian capital is bracing for more wet weather and thunderstorms until early February.

Recent heavy rains have already left several areas of Jakarta inundated with flood waters.

The Lunar New Year festivities are being welcomed with a tinge of anxiety in one particular area, which houses a large Chinese Indonesian population.

Amin, who sells Lunar New Year decorations at the Sunter traditional market, said that in the past, in the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year, he could make up to US$300 a day.

But now he is facing losses as the number of customers has dropped largely because of the recent floods.

He said: "Last year, the floodwaters receded quickly, so we accepted additional supplies of Chinese New Year decorations to sell. Now, we are withholding additional orders to be cautious.

"I feel that sales this year has plunged. Usually this time of year, I can make 2 to 3 million rupiah but now I can barely make 1 million."

Echoing a similar sentiment is Ani, who sells, among other things, Chinese mooncakes.

She said: "Last year, there were more customers despite the floods and my mooncakes were selling fast. But this year, I still have many left to sell."

Indonesia is currently enduring its annual season of torrential rain.

According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, the peak of the rainy season in Indonesia is expected to last until early February.

Recent floods have inundated several areas in Jakarta, including places in North Jakarta where many Chinese Indonesians live.

A popular shopping centre in Mangga Dua, North Jakarta is usually bustling with visitors, especially ahead of the holidays. Administrators said that in anticipation of further flooding during the rainy season, they have bought two portable pumps this year that will help pump out floodwaters to the nearby river.

Management at the shopping centre has taken steps to clear up the sewage and garbage in the surrounding area.

And using social media, it is regularly sending text messages via chat groups to its tenants about flood conditions, encouraging shop owners to pass on the information to their customers.

Ellis Hiugony, customer relations, ITC Mangga Dua Shopping Centre, said: "Before they leave home, they will ask whether ITC Mangga will open that day. I tell them it is still open for business. I would send them photos of flooded areas surrounding the centre and recommend alternative routes to enter ITC Mangga Dua."

But restaurants, which are usually fully booked for reunion dinners on the eve of the Lunar New Year, are just hoping for the best.

Peter Leeansyah, managing director of Angke Restaurant, said: "We are mentally ready for the floods but we can't do much if it does happen. We can stand by and wait for the customers who can still make it, but if the roads are cut off, what can we do?"

Floods have cost Jakarta millions of dollars a day in lost income.

And in flood-inundated neighbourhoods like North Jakarta's Kelapa Gading, the daily losses stand at over US$3 million.

No one knows how the days will pan out weather wise, but for now, everyone is just hoping for the best. 

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