Flash floods, earthquake in Indonesia kill dozens

INDONESIA. In this photo provided by National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS), the agency's personnel and police carry the body of flood victim at Sentani, Papua Province, Indonesia, Sunday, March 17. Flash flood and mudslides triggered by days of torrential downpours tore through mountainside villages in Indonesia's easternmost province, killing dozens of people, disaster officials said Sunday. (AP photo)

JAYAPURA, Indonesia-- Flash floods and mudslides triggered by downpours tore through mountainside villages in Indonesia's easternmost province, killing at least 58 people, disaster officials said. An earthquake triggered a landslide that hit a popular waterfall on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, killing at least two and damaging hundreds of homes.

Floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province's Jayapura district following days of torrential rains, hampering rescue efforts, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman, said Sunday.

The dead included three children who drowned after the floods began just after midnight Saturday.

Nugroho said 58 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Sunday. Another 74 people were hospitalized, many with broken bones and head wounds.

Nugroho said the number of dead and injured would likely increase since many affected areas had not been reached.

"We are overwhelmed by too many injuries," said Haerul Lee, the head of the Jayapura health office, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by power outages. "We can't handle it alone."

Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi said rescuers saved two injured infants who had been trapped for more than six hours. The parents of one of the babies were washed away and died.

Worst hit was Sentani subdistrict, where a landslide early Sunday 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, said the local disaster mitigation agency head, Martono.

Martono, who goes by a single name, said rescuers evacuated more than 4,000 people to temporary shelters as more than 300 houses were damaged.

Television footage showed hundreds of rescuers and members of the police and military evacuating residents to shelters at a government office. Others were carrying bodies in black and orange body bags. Ambulances and vehicles were seen carrying victims on muddy roads to several clinics and hospitals.

Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods and kill dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

Meanwhile, a moderately strong earthquake triggered a landslide on Lombok island on Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 5.5 and struck at a depth of 23 kilometers (15 miles).

The earthquake was felt across the island, located next to Bali, panicking residents still recovering from a major quake last August that killed more than 300 people and left thousands homeless.

Sunday's quake triggered a landslide from Mount Rinjani and hit dozens of tourists at the Tiu Kelep waterfall located in the foothills of the active volcano, said Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman.

Two Malaysians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in the landslide, Nugroho said.

He said rescuers managed to evacuate 22 Malaysians and 14 Indonesians from the waterfall site, and 50 others — mostly local surveyors from government institutions, the military and the police — from the mountainous area.

Forty-four people were injured in the quake, including eight Malaysians, Nugroho said. About 500 homes were damaged, including 32 that were flattened.

Indonesia sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations was ready to help Indonesia cope with the disasters.

"The United Nations expresses its solidarity with the Indonesian authorities and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from both natural disasters," the spokesman for the secretary-general said in a statement. (AP)


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