Heavy rains unleash flash floods in remote corner of Indonesia, killing at least 29

By Laode Mursidin, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flash floods in eastern Indonesia kill at least 29

TELUK WONDAMA, Indonesia — Heavy rain unleashed flash floods and mudslides, killing 29 people in a remote corner of Indonesia that rescuers were still struggling to reach days after the storms began, officials and witnesses said Tuesday.

With dozens still missing, residents in West Papua province’s hillside village of Wasior were combing the mud in search of survivors, some with their bare hands. Hundreds of homes were destroyed.

“I heard a roar and suddenly the river near my home broke its banks,” said Ira Wanoni, describing the scariest deluge, which occurred early Monday. “Water mixed with rocks, mud and logs gushed out. … Many people didn’t have time to save themselves.”

With many roads underwater, rescue workers were having a hard time reaching the area, which has also been hit by power blackouts and downed telephone lines. Some of the more than 60 people injured — most with broken bones — had to be evacuated to by helicopter.

Mujiharto, who heads the Ministry of Health’s crisis center, said rescuers have pulled 29 bodies from beneath tons of heavy, dark mud and debris and that dozens were still missing, meaning the death toll could rise.

With hundreds of homes damaged — at least 30 of them completely flattened — thousands of people have had to flee the area.

“We need tents to shelter people,” Decky Amnir, head of the local Disaster Management Agency, told reporters in Wondama district. “And medical supplies, too.”

Landslides and flooding kill dozens of people every year in the vast tropical archipelago of Indonesia, which has more than 17,000 islands.

Associated Press Writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report from Jakarta.

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