JAKARTA – Indonesia said Friday it would start seeding clouds west of the capital, Jakarta, in a bid to prevent further rainfall after deadly flash floods and landslides following some of the heaviest rains ever recorded.
The death toll in Jakarta and surrounding areas had risen to 43, the disaster mitigation agency said, and tens of thousands of people had been displaced.
The floods followed torrential rains on Tuesday and into New Year’s Day that inundated swaths of Jakarta and nearby towns, home to 30 million people.
The deluge was “one of the most extreme rainfall” events since records began in 1866, the country’s Meteorological, the Climatological and Geophysics Agency said Friday.
The agency said climate change has increased risk of extreme weather.
With more rain forecast, two small planes were readied to break up potential rain clouds above the Sunda Strait and a bigger plane would be on standby, said Indonesia’s technology agency, BPPT.
“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 — shooting salt flares into clouds in an attempt to trigger rainfall when moisture condenses around the particles — is often used in Indonesia to put out forest fires during the dry season.
The BMKG has warned that “extreme weather” may continue until Tuesday and heavy rainfall could last to mid-February.
Authorities on Thursday used hundreds of pumps to suck water out of residential areas and public infrastructure like railways. Floodwaters still inundated some areas of Southeast Asia’s largest city on Friday.
President Joko “Jokowi” 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 to reduce the burden on Jakarta, which is overpopulated and sinking.