Bodies Unclaimed as Indonesia Flood Toll Rises

A picture shows the dead bodies of victims of flooding caused by torrential downpours in Teluk Wondama, Indonesias West Papua on October 5, 2010. At least 56 people were killed and 24 remain missing after the flash floods.

WASIOR, Padang - The remote Indonesian town of Wasior was a scene of devastation Wednesday, with bodies lying unclaimed in the debris of flash floods that killed at least 86 people and left dozens missing. The seaside town’s Sanduay neighbourhood was all but flattened when a wall of mud, rocks and logs hit it on Monday.

An AFP reporter who reached the area, 240 kilometres (150 miles) southeast of Manokwari, West Papua province, said hundreds of homes had been destroyed. Residents and rescue teams were searching the mud and debris for survivors but officials said the death toll is almost certain to rise.

Several bodies could be seen wedged beneath rocks and logs that were washed into the town from surrounding hillsides. Some of the logs — felled by timber workers in nearby forests — were two metres (seven feet) wide and left a trail of destruction as they swept through the town on the raging flood waters.

“Earlier Monday morning there were sudden floods but on a small scale. But 30 minutes later I heard a kind of big thunder and I saw powerful waters coming from the mountain,” 50-year-old resident Wilem Imburi told AFP.

“There was chaos and people panicked and tried to run to safety.” Father-of-two Mahmud, 36, said he managed to hold on to his son but lost his two-year-old daughter.

“I was holding my two kids when the waters came, but I didn’t have enough strength and lost grip of my daughter,” he said.

The flood carried him and his four-year-old son into the sea about 500 metres (yards) away from his home. Papua search and rescue official Mochamad Arifin said at least 86 people were killed and 81 were injured in the disaster.

“We are still searching for dozens of missing people,” he said.

“The chance of survival for the missing people is slim.”

Experts fear such events will become more common in Indonesia due to a combination of climate change, land conversion and logging, which can contribute to landslides and flash floods after monsoonal downpours.

Indonesia’s climatology agency said most parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago had experienced torrential rains, strong winds, high waves and flooding due to extreme weather this year./


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