Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jakarta New Year's Eve Festival

The Jakarta Night Festival — possibly the biggest festivity the capital city has ever hosted, was far from flawless, but Jakartans said they still loved it and wanted it to be held annually.

The city police estimated that about 200,000 people swarmed Jl. MH Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta, where the city administration erected 16 stages that showcased various performances to entertain revelers from across the capital. The police’s estimate is much lower than the Jakarta Tourism Agency’s expectation of 700,000 people, a large number for an event that was only planned a few weeks ago.

The pouring rain failed to deter partygoers intrigued by the city’s first New Year’s Eve street party, during which the city administration closed main roads in its busiest and most affluent area to give people from all walks of life the chance to revel in festivities.

“This is quite a nice way to kick-off the new year,” Annisa, 25, a resident of Sunter, North Jakarta, said, with her face glowing with joy. “Although there are so many people, I’m enjoying myself since there isn’t any traffic.”

Ratih, 38, a resident of Kebon Kacang in Central Jakarta, said that she brought along her 1-month-old baby to the event out of curiosity. “I really wanted to know how the event would turn out, and it was wonderful,” she said while carrying her baby.

Most attendees said that the festival should be made an annual tradition though they admitted that the organizers have much to improve. Ratih, for instance, regretted the fact that the event lacked public toilets.

According to the plan, hundreds bike-riding students, people adorned in batik, giant Betawi effigies and marching bands were supposed to parade along Jl. MH Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman.

But the parade was canceled because the streets were overflowing with people, making it impossible to pass. Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo admitted that there were still many aspects that needed improvement, including parade management and lighting.

Many people also complained about having had faced difficultly when they tried to access the main stage located at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle. Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said that many parents claimed to have lost their children in the crowd. He added that at least 16 people claimed to have been victims of pickpockets. Empty wallets were reportedly scattered after the party.

Indonesian Red Cross health workers that were on stand-by said that 32 people underwent treatment in their facilities. “Most of them fainted, while others had problems breathing due to the smoke coming from fireworks,” Adi Septiawan, one of the health workers, said, adding that none of them had serious medical problems.

However, on Tuesday, media reports said that a young man, identified as Evan Fabian Djaelani, 26, died due to a lack of oxygen during the festival. Evan and his girlfriend were at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle when they both reportedly fell unconscious.

“His girlfriend woke up, Evan did not. But, I’m not sure what his cause of death was,” Evan’s friend, Alit D. Mertadikara.

Evan died en route to the hospital in an ambulance. The ambulance also faced difficulty trying to pass the streets amid the crowds of people. He was buried at the Pangkalan Jati Navy Cemetery in Cinere, South Jakarta, on Tuesday afternoon.

The police dispersed the crowd around 1:30 a.m., announcing that the roads would be opened for vehicles at 2 a.m. (Jakarta Post)

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