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Flood Toll Rises, and Indonesia Braces for Disease

ater. Didiet Haryadi, the director of Jakarta’s water company, said it would take two to three weeks after the flooding recedes to restore the city’s supply of clean water.

There was panic buying of supplies in some supermarkets that remained open.

Medical workers on rubber rafts patrolled the flooded areas treating people for diarrhea, skin diseases and respiratory problems. Officials warned of the possible spread of more serious ailments like dysentery, cholera, typhoid, malaria and dengue fever. “We have to be alert for diseases like typhoid, those transmitted by rats and respiratory infections,” said Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari.

Officials also issued warnings about the bird flu virus, which has flared again in Indonesia this winter, causing the government to consider imposing a state of emergency. Sixty-three people have died of the virus in Indonesia, more than in any other country.

Flooding every year during the rainy season paralyzes traffic in Jakarta, but this year’s flood was among the worst in memory.

Residents say the heaviest flooding comes in five-year cycles. In January 2002, flooding killed 21 people and forced 380,000 from their homes.

Environmentalists said the annual floods had been growing worse and blamed clogged drains, trash-filled rivers and deforestation of hillsides south of the city for development.

Critics also blame delays in extending a flood-control canal that carried excess water from overflowing rivers in this city where some neighborhoods lie below sea level.

Responding to sharp criticism in the press for lack or preparation, Jakarta’s governor, Sutiyoso, said that the flooding was part of a natural cycle and that there was nothing he could have done.

“There is no point in throwing abuse around,” Mr. Sutiyoso told a local radio station. “I was up till 3 a.m. trying to handle the refugees.”

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