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Jakarta Indonesia has risen to the forefront of international news headlines due to its role in relief efforts in the wake of the recent tsunami that has devastated the entire Southeast Asia region. On December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake occurred just of the west coast of Indonesia’s island of Sumatra. The epicenter of the earthquake was located about 2000 kilometers northwest from Jakarta, Indonesia.
The earthquake, which occurred in the deep ocean, triggered a massive displacement of water. When large volumes of water are vertically displaced it initiates the beginning of tsunami, or tidal waves. Just a short time after the earthquake, massive tsunamis reached the coastal villages and cities in Northern Indonesia, with the Aceh Province most heavily affected. Tsunamis also caused devastation in Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and as far as Eastern African Countries like Somalia and Tanzania. But the devastation was the most spine-chilling in the Aceh Province, which is about 2,500 kilometers from Jakarta.
Consider this, of the over 150,000 people who have died from this severe tragedy, over 100,000 of them were from Indonesia’s Aceh Province. The entire region can be considered a disaster area as millions of people are displaced and helpless as all infrastructure have been essentially demolished.
Most of the international relief and assistance efforts to support this region has been focused in Jakarta. Medicine, water supplies, clothing, shelter, and workers have been making the shuttle from Jakarta to the small Banda Aceh Airport, which is running at full capacity. The volume of relief aid coming into Jakarta has simply been overwhelming the air corridor in this region.
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of the Southeast Asian country of Indonesia. The city has an area of approximately 650 square-kilometers (Indonesia has a land area of 1,919,440 square-kilometers) and a population of over 9 million people (Indonesia has a population of approximately 238-million people). Jakarta is located on the northwest coast of the island of Java, and serves as Indonesia’s political, administrative, and economic center.
Jakarta has a rich and complex history. The first records of settlement in the area can be traced back to the 5th century, where the Hindu people occupied the area. By the 12th century, Jakarta was known as Kalapa, which served as a major port for the Hindu kingdom of Sunda. The first Europeans to visit the area were the Portuguese. The Hindu King granted Portuguese traders permission to construct a fort at Kalapa in the early 16th century. Jakarta's port is still called Sunda Kelapa today, after this early settlement.
Shortly after, Fatahillah, a charismatic young leader from a nearby northern kingdom, conquered the city in 1527. On June 22 of that year, Fatahillah changed the name of Kelapa into Jayakarta, which is widely credited as the birth date of Jakarta.
By the end of the 16th century, the Dutch had visited the city to establish some trading networks. In 1619, the forces of the Dutch East India Company conquered the city and renamed it from Jayakarta to Batavia, which is the Latin name for the Netherlands. With the Dutch victory, Batavia became the capital of the colonial Dutch East Indies.
The Dutch continued to rule the area, expanding its boundaries in the early 1800’s. But with the advent of the Napoleonic Wars, which caused the Dutch to withdraw from Indonesia to return to Europe for battle, the British moved in and captured the Java in 1811. After the Napoleonic Wars were over, the British returned control of the area back to the Dutch. With continuing Dutch expansion efforts, Batavia grew increasingly important as a governing and economic center that is still maintained to this day.
During World War II, Japan took possession of Batavia in 1942 and renamed the city to Jakarta, a move to gain local favor from the locals who were growing disenchanted and bitter over the length Dutch rule. When Japan was defeated by the Alliance in 1945 to end the war, the Dutch reoccupied the city despite the declaration of independence by the Indonesians that had occurred earlier in that year. The Dutch effort to retain control over their former colony finally came crashing to an end after a tumultuous war of independence, which resulted in the establishment of the nation of Indonesia in 1949.