Death toll from flooding in Asia nears 110; tens of thousands evacuated

By Laode Mursidin, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Death toll from Asian floods nears 110

TELUK WONDAMA, Indonesia — Helicopters dropped food to isolated villages and security forces helped clear debris and search for survivors as the number of people killed by floods and landslides across Asia climbed Wednesday to nearly 110.

Three-quarters of the deaths were in eastern Indonesia, where days of torrential downpours caused mud and debris to crash into hillside villages, damaging thousands of homes. Twenty-six fatalities were reported in Vietnam.

On the nearby Chinese island of Hainan, 64,000 people had to be evacuated.

The greatest panic was caused when a river burst its banks in the hardest-hit Indonesian village of Wasior early this week, sweeping away residents in a fast-moving wall of sludge, rocks and heavy logs that left thigh-high water in its wake.

“Many people didn’t have time to save themselves,” said one woman, Ira Wanoni, adding that others were screaming “Flood! Flood!” as they tried to scramble to high ground.

“It was such a sad scene,” said Arbi Korain, whose three children were all at school at the time. “My wife and I climbed onto our roof. We just sat and watched as cars, motorcycles … and bodies … drifted past.”

With roads and bridges across West Papua province impassable or completely destroyed, it took days for help to reach many of the victims.

It wasn’t until a navy ship arrived Wednesday, carrying soldiers, police and health workers, that the extent of the damage became clear, said Sutrisno, the deputy head of the National Disaster Management Agency.

Eighty-three bodies have been pulled from the mud and the wreckage of crumpled homes, he said, adding that with 80 percent of the houses in six villages suffering damage, the death toll was expected to rise.

Another 90 people were hospitalized, many with broken bones. Some had to be evacuated by helicopter and, as hospitals in the district of Manokwari became overwhelmed, others were taken by ship to neighboring provinces.

“There are just too many injuries,” said Dortheis Sawaki, heading local relief operations, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by power outages and downed phone lines. “We can’t handle it alone.”

Rain continued to pound the area Wednesday, adding to the misery of more than 4,000 displaced, even as soldiers unloaded sleeping mats, instant noodles, clean water and other supplies from waiting trucks.

In Vietnam, 11 bodies were recovered in the worst-hit province of Quang Binh, where authorities were also searching for five sailors from a sunken barge, disaster official Nguyen Ngoc Giai said.

At least seven other bodies were found in Ha Tinh province, five in Nghe An and three in Quang Tri, officials there reported, as floodwaters slowly started to recede.

On China’s nearby island province of Hainan, meanwhile, seven straight days of heavy rains left two people missing and forced 64,000 to evacuate, said an official in the provincial flood control office who gave only his surname, Wu.

Seasonal rain across Asia causes floods and landslides every year, killing hundreds of people across the region.

Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, and Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.

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