JAKARTA, Indonesia — Torrential rains caused flooding that paralyzed much of Jakarta on Thursday, resulting in the deaths of at least four people and forcing the evacuations of tens of thousands of others.
Parts of the capital were under at least six feet of water, and even the presidential palace was not spared as waters rushed into the complex. The central business district saw water levels rise to at least 18 inches.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Yudi Sukarno, 40, who has lived in the Bendungan Hilir neighborhood since he was a child. “There’s all this asphalt and concrete, so the water doesn’t have anywhere to go.”
Thirteen rivers run through Jakarta, but poor drainage caused by rubbish and a low water table frequently causes them to overflow. The problems have recently been exacerbated by deforestation outside the city.
In central Jakarta on Thursday, muddy torrents filled major thoroughfares as evacuees tramped through waist-deep water in one central neighborhood. A group of men balanced an air mattress with a sick elderly woman on their shoulders in an effort to get her to a hospital.
Flood walls in one neighborhood collapsed, inundating neighborhoods in east Jakarta. Residents in one area there, Kampung Melayu, were forced to the second levels of their homes and some have taken refuge on a highway overpass, while others gathered in mosques, which were filled with people escaping the floods, according to volunteers.
The Indonesian Meteorological Agency said that heavy rains are expected in the Jakarta region for the next three days.
“Because of the rain’s intensity we’ve declared an emergency situation from now until Jan. 27,” Jokowi Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, told reporters.
He also declared a school holiday for children in the most flooded parts of the city and many offices have told their employees to stay at home. The American Embassy issued a message telling people to exercise caution, saying, “Walking and driving in flooded areas can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible.”
Local news broadcasts showed images of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono standing shin deep in water that had flooded into the presidential palace.
“It’s O.K. if the palace is flooded,” Mr. Yudhoyono told reporters. “What is important is that the people are protected.”
The sluice gates upstream from Jakarta have reached record levels, according to officials at the National Disaster Management Agency. Power outages have prevented pumps from being able to drain the water from streets and houses.
Officials at the National Disaster Management Agency have encouraged residents to stay inside to reduce road congestion.
In many areas residents have filled the streets, where vendors were still preparing food and selling fruits and vegetables.
“You can’t go anywhere,” said Sigit Hardisumarjo, who was buying fried bread and hoping his home stayed dry. “It feels like we’re handicapped.”
Despite the lack of movement, Mr. Sigit said flooding was common during the rainy season. Many people in his neighborhood have elevated their houses to prepare for flooding like this.
In 2007, Jakarta saw some of the worst flooding in recent memory, with hundreds of thousands forced to flee.