Indonesian rescuers search through rivers and rubble after flash floods

14 May 2024, 13:34

Damage at a village affected by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia
Indonesia Flash Floods. Picture: PA

The floods swept away people and homes and submerged hundreds of houses and buildings, forcing thousands of residents to flee to temporary shelters.

Rescuers are searching in rivers and the rubble of devastated villages for bodies, and whenever possible, survivors of flash floods that hit Indonesia’s Sumatra Island over the weekend.

Monsoon rains and a landslide of mud and cold lava from Mount Marapi caused rivers to breach their banks.

The deluge tore through mountainside villages in four districts in West Sumatra province just before midnight on Saturday.

People inspect the damage by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia
People inspect the damage by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia (Sutan Malik Kayo/AP)

The floods swept away people and 79 homes and submerged hundreds of houses and buildings, forcing more than 3,300 residents to flee to temporary government shelters, National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said.

The National Search and Rescue Agency said in a statement that 52 bodies had been pulled from mud and rivers by Tuesday, mostly in the worst-hit Agam and Tanah Datar districts, while rescuers are searching for 20 people who are reportedly missing.

Television reports showed rescue personnel using jackhammers, circular saws, farm tools and sometimes their bare hands, digging desperately in the Agam district where roads were transformed into murky brown rivers and villages covered by thick mud, rocks, and uprooted trees.

Scores of rescue personnel were searching through a river around the Anai Valley Waterfall area in Tanah Datar district where tons of mud, rocks and trees were left from flash floods.

Rescuers were focused on finding four people from a group of seven that were swept away with their cars.

Three other bodies were pulled out on Monday, said Abdul Malik, who heads the Search and Rescue Office in Padang, the provincial capital.

A vehicle damaged by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia
A vehicle damaged by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia (Sutan Malik Kayo/AP)

“With many missing and some remote areas still unreachable, the death toll was likely to rise,” Mr Malik said.

Heavy rains cause frequent landslides and flash floods in Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near floodplains.

The weekend disaster came just two months after heavy rains triggered flash floods and a landslide in West Sumatra, killing at least 26 people and leaving 11 others missing.

By Press Association

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