Indonesia plans cloud seeding to halt rain as floods death toll hits 30

Residents inspect the wreckage of vehicles that were swept away by flood in Bekasi, West Java today. (AP pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia will carry out cloud seeding on Friday in a bid to prevent further rainfall over the capital Jakarta, after deadly flash floods and landslides following some of the heaviest rains in more than 20 years.

The death toll in Jakarta and surrounding areas rose to 30 as of Thursday night, according to the country’s disaster mitigation agency, while tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

The floods followed torrential rains on Dec 31 and into the early hours of New Year’s day and inundated swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns.

With more deluges forecast, two small planes have been readied to break up potential rain clouds in the skies above the Sunda Strait, while a bigger plane will be on standby, Indonesia’s technology agency BPPT said in a statement.

“All clouds moving towards the Greater Jakarta area, which are estimated to lead to precipitation there, will be shot with NaCl (sodium chloride) material,” the agency said.

“Hopefully they will break before they reach the Greater Jakarta area.”

Cloud seeding or shooting salt flares into clouds to trigger rainfall, is often used in Indonesia to put out forest fires during the dry season.

The Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency has warned that “extreme weather” may continue until Jan 7, while heavy rainfall could last through to mid February.

Television footage on Friday showed flood waters still inundating some areas of Southeast Asia’s largest city.

Authorities on Thursday used hundreds of pumps to suck water out of residential areas and public infrastructure, like railways.

President Joko Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the disaster, including the construction of a canal that has been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.

Widodo last year announced he will move Indonesia’s capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, to reduce the burden on Jakarta, which is overpopulated and sinking.

Jakarta and its surroundings are home to more than 30 million people.

More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the centre of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.