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Flash Floods Kill 39 in Indonesia

39 Killed in Indonesian Floods

The Associated Press, July 23, 2007


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Flash floods and landslides in central Indonesia inundated villages, destroyed bridges and roads, and sent thousands fleeing their homes, officials said Monday. At least 39 people were killed.

The toll was expected to rise following days of torrential rain, with dozens more missing and rescuers only starting to reach isolated areas in the disaster zone, said Brig. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, a Sulawesi island police chief.

"Residents say some family members have been buried since last night," he said, amid reports that water reached 6 feet high in the hardest-hit villages.

"We fear they may not have survived. Up until now we haven't been able to reach them," he said.

Seven bodies have been recovered and another 32 were buried beneath torrents of mud, he said.

Rescuers struggled to get rice, instant noodles, blankets, medicine and other emergency supplies to some 16,000 forced from their homes, Rustam Pakaya, head of Health Ministry's crisis center, adding that roads have been cut off and bridges destroyed.

Efforts to transport supplies by sea were abandoned because of dangerously high waves, he said, but aid workers have requested a small airplane to help with delivery and rescue efforts.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous regions and near fertile flood plains close to rivers. Some environmentalists blame rampant deforestation, which they contend loosens soils on mountainsides.

Last year, more than 200 people died on Sulawesi island alone.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.