Death toll from floods in eastern Indonesia climbs to 75; rescue operations pick up steam

By Laode Mursidin, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Flash floods in eastern Indonesia kill at least 75

TELUK WONDAMA, Indonesia — A navy warship arrived in a remote corner of eastern Indonesia carrying tents and medical supplies Wednesday after flash floods and mudslides tore through mountainside villages, killing at least 75 people and leaving thousands homeless.

The disaster in West Papua province — triggered by days of torrential downpours — submerged hundreds of houses in thigh-high water and destroyed roads and bridges, hampering already difficult rescue efforts.

Worst hit was the village of Wasior, where a landslide early Monday 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.

“Many people didn’t have time to save themselves,” stammered Ira Wanoni, adding that at least 30 homes were completely flattened.

The death toll continued to spiral even as rescue efforts picked up steam with the arrival of security forces, together with 13 tons of supplies, from tents and sleeping mats to instant noodles and clean water.

“We hope this is enough for now,” said Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

Seventy-five bodies had been pulled from the mud and the wreckage of crumpled homes by Wednesday, said Dortheis Sawaki, who is heading local relief operations.

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 Sawaki, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by power outages. “We can’t handle it alone.”

More than 2,000 people were seeking shelter in government buildings and makeshift camps.

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 Writers Niniek Karmini and Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report from Jakarta.

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