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Rising sea floods Indonesian capital

By Zakki Hakim (Associated Press) - November 27, 2007

Indonesia’s environment minister said Tuesday that global warming was to blame after the capital of Jakarta was partially flooded, forcing thousands of people to flee homes and cutting off a highway to the international airport.

Authorities used pumps to lower water levels, which reached six feet in the worst-hit areas and washed more than a mile inland Monday, said Iskandar, an official at Jakarta’s flood crisis center. At least 2,200 houses were inundated, some with chest-deep water.

“I haven’t seen it this bad in several years,” said Toki, a police officer who was directing traffic around a flooded area near Sukarno-Hatta airport, where thousands of passengers were stranded.

Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said global warming was at least partially to blame, causing sea levels to rise and making coastal cities like Jakarta especially vulnerable to flooding and monsoon storms.

Authorities also ignored warnings about exceptionally high 18-year tide cycles, flood expert Jan Japp Brinkman told the Jakarta Post newspaper, and the situation was exacerbated by the failure to fix a sea barrier breached over a week ago.

The flooding came as Indonesia prepared to host the U.N. climate change conference from Dec. 3-14, which aims to start negotiations on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions that expires in 2012.

The sprawling archipelagic nation is one of the largest contributors of carbon dioxide emissions, due to the rapid pace of deforestation, but experts say it is also at risk of becoming one of the biggest victims of global warming.