Jakartans reel from services disruption, traffic gridlock amid massive Java island blackout

Asia
Read Time3 Minutes, 2 Seconds

JAKARTA: A massive blackout that lasted more than eight hours in parts of Indonesia’s Java Island on Sunday (Aug 4) caused gridlocks and disruption to services and facilities to tens of millions of Indonesians, particularly those in the capital Jakarta. 

Banker Heru Cahyono told CNA that he was at a shopping mall in East Jakarta when the blackout hit just minutes before noon. 

“I was inside a film theatre when the power went down midway through the show,” he said adding that the mall’s power generator failed to keep the lights and air-conditioning on. 

“Security guards had to usher mall goers to the exits and parking lots using flashlights because the whole mall was dark. I spent the next one hour at an underground parking lot because everyone was dying to get out.” 

Meta Cahayani, a shopkeeper at another mall in South Jakarta was less fortunate. 

Ms Cahayani said her employer insisted that her mobile phone shop remain open after the mall’s management fired up the generator to keep some of the lights on. To conserve energy, however, the air-conditioning was turned off.

“It’s very hot here due to the blackout. This has been going on since 12pm, about eight hours. It’s hard working in this condition,” the 18-year-old said. 

TRAINS BREAKDOWN, TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK

But her plight was nothing compared to the horrors faced by hundreds of passengers on board the four mass rapid transit trains stranded between underground stations. 

“My goodness, my MRT stopped. My heart is racing non-stop because my MRT is underground,” wrote one Twitter user @itaaaw before sharing a video of passengers being evacuated to the nearest station in Central Jakarta through the MRT’s dark and humid tunnel.  

Passengers were also stuck between stations on board commuter line trains, authorities said. The commuter line connects Jakarta and its suburbs, which were also affected by the blackout. 

Residents said the blackout has also disrupted ATM machines, electronic payments, mobile phone coverage as well as traffic lights and electronic toll gates causing gridlocks in some parts of the capital. 

Jakarta MRT blackout
A security officer stands guard in front of a closed MRT station due to an electricity outage in Jakarta on August 4, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Adek Berry)  

“The toll roads were complete gridlocked because the toll gates were not working. The electronic payment readers were off and there was no one at the unmanned toll entrances,” Trisno Pambudi told CNA. 

“Finally, after about 30 minutes some workers came, opened the gate and collected toll fares manually. They should have anticipated situations like this and at least have someone monitoring every toll entrance in case things like this happens.”

In some areas, residents said it took them one hour to travel four kilometres, as people flocked to shopping malls, supermarkets and cafes powered by diesel generators. 

Residents also flocked to supply stores to buy their own personal generators. 

State utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) said problems at two of their power plants on the western edge of Java have cut off supply to people in Jakarta and neighbouring provinces of Banten and West Java, affecting at least 50 million people.  

PLN said they have to redirect electricity from plants in Central and East Java to get power back to the capital.  

By 9pm (Jakarta time), electricity in Jakarta was back on while power to the two provinces were scheduled to be back on before midnight.  

The size of the losses caused by the massive blackout is not known. 

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