Thursday 18 April, 2019

Flash floods, slides in eastern Indonesia kill at least 58

Flash floods and mudslides triggered by days of torrential downpours tore through mountainside villages in Indonesia's easternmost province, killing at least 58 people and leaving thousands homeless, disaster officials said Sunday.

Rescuers recovered more bodies as floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province's Jayapura district, hampering rescue efforts, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman.

The dead included three children who drowned after the floods began just after midnight Saturday.

Nugroho said 58 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Sunday. Another 74 people were hospitalized, many with broken bones and head wounds.

Nugroho said the number of dead and injured will likely increase since many affected areas have not been reached.

"We are overwhelmed by too many injuries," said Haerul Lee, the head of the Jayapura health office, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by power outages. "We can't handle it alone."

Papua's provincial administration has declared a two-week emergency in order to get assistance from the central government.

Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi said rescuers managed to save two injured infants who had been trapped for more than six hours. The parents of one of the babies were washed away and died.

Worst hit was Sentani subdistrict, where a landslide early Sunday was followed minutes later by a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents in a fast-moving deluge of water, heavy logs and debris, said the local disaster mitigation agency head, Martono.

Martono, who goes by a single name, said rescuers have been evacuating more than 4,000 to temporary shelters as more than 300 houses damaged.

He said that rising flood water forced Sentani airport to temporarily close Sunday after a runway was flooded and water damaged the power system and two small planes parked at the airport.

Television footage showed hundreds of rescuers and members of the police and military evacuating residents to shelters at a government office. Others were carrying bodies in black and orange body bags. Ambulances and vehicles were seen carrying victims on muddy roads to several clinics and hospitals.

Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods and kill dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains. 

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