Death Toll from Floods in Central Indonesia Rises to 57
PANTI, Indonesia Rescuers using their bare hands and basic tools struggled to reach stranded villagers and recovered dozens more corpses Tuesday as the death toll from flash floods in central Indonesia reached 57, officials said.
A group of crying survivors carried a dead baby wrapped in a blanket to a temporary clinic, and police hauled injured survivors on stretchers from destroyed villages in Jember district on the east of Java island, witnesses said.
Local officials scrambled to provide food, shelter and medicine to more than 5,400 people left homeless by the flooding, which was triggered by heavy rain that sent mud, water and logs crashing into villages, destroying hundreds of buildings early Monday.
"I thought it was the end of the world when the floods attacked houses and shops in my village," said Jumiin, a survivor sheltering at a local school who, like many Indonesians, goes by a single name. "Thank God, we managed to save ourselves."
Survivors were staying in schools, mosques and government buildings.
"Emergency supplies have been sent to the refugees including rice and noodles, and they will be treated by paramedics as needed," local government spokesman Edi Susilo said.
Police, villagers and student volunteers working with their bare hands and farming tools dug through mud and debris and recovered the corpses of 57 people by early Tuesday, said Susilo. He said the death toll would likely rise.
Rescuers reached two villagers who had been stranded for two days, but several hundred others remained isolated higher up the hill. Intermittent rain also hampered relief efforts.
"I expect there are more bodies up there that have not been found because there is thick mud everywhere," said Jumadi, who lives in the hard hit village of Panti.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed condolences and sent his welfare minister to the area to mobilize rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
"On behalf of the government, I offer condolences to the victims ... and pray for their souls to be accepted beside God," Yudhoyono said on a visit to Bandung, West Java's capital.
Tropical downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous regions and in fertile flood plains.
Edi Susilo said years of logging on the slopes of Mount Argopuro may have contributed to the scale of the flooding.
Jember is 540 miles east of Jakarta.
Source: Associated Press