Indonesian flood vacuees subsist on rice, noodles for weeks

JAKARTA - People affected by floods in Kampung Pulo, East Jakarta, have had nothing to eat other than instant noodles and rice, with an occasional egg, for three weeks since floods first hit their area on Jan. 13.

"I know I should not refuse any help, especially in my situation [as an evacuee], but I've already had enough of instant noodles," said Warni, one of the evacuees sheltering under a tarpaulin on Jl. Jatinegara Barat on Tuesday.

She said that personnel from the Army's Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) cooked only noodles and rice for the meals of the evacuees but on the last two days, the evacuees had received some eggs and cabbage with their meals.

Another evacuee, Nong, said that she could sometimes afford to buy food from street vendors.

"If I want to eat other kinds of food [besides instant noodles], I just buy it from street vendors," she said, adding that the floods had prevented her from conducting her daily activities in support of her family.

Capt. Arip, who was in charge of the temporary kitchen, said that his team was trying to cook different foods for the people.

"We, for example, mix military instant meals with fried rice for breakfast," he said. "We also mix eggs with instant noodles and rice for lunch and dinner."

He said his 12-man team was assigned to prepare around 800 portions for each meal.

According to Arip, the temporary kitchen still has a stock of rice and noodles sufficient for the coming four days and eggs sufficient for two days, but it needs drinking water and side dishes such as tempeh, tofu and vegetables. All the foodstuffs are provided by donors.

Even though the evacuees have to endure emergency conditions regularly during the rainy season, they are reluctant to move to low-cost apartments in Pinus Elok, Komarudin and Pulogebang, all in East Jakarta, provided by the city administration.

Susan from Kampung Pulo said that she preferred to live there because it was closer to her workplace in the Jatinegara market.

"My daughter also goes to school near here," she said.

Another Kampung Pulo resident, Maryana, said that she was willing to move to a low-cost apartment even though she would have to pay rent of Rp 150,000 (US$12.27) per month.

"But the construction of the apartment building allotted to us is not finished yet. So I still have to live here," she said.

Meanwhile, residents taking refuge under the Rawajati overpass in South Jakarta are also reluctant to move elsewhere. They prefer staying in their current homes even though their location is vulnerable to flooding every year.

When asked about the prospect of being relocated to a low-cost apartment, 49-year-old housewife Zaitun said that apartments did not guarantee personal space.

"You have a lot of people crammed into one building. Being relocated to an apartment does not mean we will permanently live there and it will be difficult to buy a house again," she said.

However, 45-year-old fellow resident Masuri said that she would consider moving into a low-cost apartment if it were nearby.

"It would be convenient," she said.