Disastrous floods yesterday brought the gleaming, modern capital of Indonesia to a standstill. Outside the glass tower blocks of Jakarta, the streets were deep in filthy water - bringing fears of disease. Nearly 340,000 people are believed to have fled their homes before the rising waters.

A metropolis that was a source and symbol of Asian pride has been brought to its knees by days of torrential rain - and years of reckless urban planning. The storm drains that were supposed to clear the water were blocked with rubbish. The forested hillsides to the south of the city that used to prevent such floods are gone, cleared to make room for the villas of the rich. But rich and poor alike have been swept from their homes by the water. Some people resorted to horse-drawn carriages to get through streets flooded too deep for any car. Others fled to the upper storeys of apartment blocks, where they had to wait to be rescued.

The real fear is disease. At least 29 people have been killed by the floods, but that number could rise drastically if there is a major outbreak. "We have to be alert for diseases like typhoid, those transmitted by rats, and respiratory infections," said the Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari.

"Hopefully, there will be no dysentery. We know it's hard for the residents [to keep clean] under the circumstances, but they have to." The skies cleared yesterday and residents began to pump some of the water. But the Indonesian meteorological agency warned that more downpours could be on the way.


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