79 dead, dozens injured and missing in Indonisia mudslides

Country also hit by earthquake, triggering landslip that hit popular waterfall on Lombok

Damaged houses after quakes in Selong on the resort island of Lombok. Photograph: Badan Nasional/AFP/Getty Images

Damaged houses after quakes in Selong on the resort island of Lombok. Photograph: Badan Nasional/AFP/Getty Images

 

The number of people killed after torrential downpours triggered flash floods and mudslides in Indonesia has climbed to 79, officials have said.

The disaster-prone country was also hit by an earthquake on Sunday, triggering a landslip that hit a popular waterfall on the tourist island of Lombok, killing at least three people and damaging hundreds of homes.

The worst-hit area from the flooding was Sentani sub-district, where tons of mud, rocks and trees from a landslip on a mountain early on Sunday rolled down to a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in the capital, Jakarta.

Floodwaters and landslips destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province’s Jayapura district following days of torrential rains, hampering rescue efforts, Mr Nugroho said.

“The combination of natural factors and human activities has caused this fatal disaster,” he said.

Mr Nugroho said 79 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Sunday.

Another 74 people were taken to hospital, many with broken bones and head wounds.

Mr Nugroho said the number of dead and injured would likely increase since affected areas had not been reached and rescuers were searching for 43 people reportedly still missing.

Cars are submerged in mud following a flash flood in Sentani, Papua, Indonesia. Photograph: Antara Foto/Reuters
Cars are submerged in mud following a flash flood in Sentani, Papua, Indonesia. Photograph: Antara Foto/Reuters

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

Papua military spokesman Colonel 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.

Mr Nugroho said rescuers evacuated more than 4,200 people to temporary shelters as more than 600 houses and buildings were damaged and submerged.

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 landslips 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 landslip on Lombok island on Sunday.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 5.5 and struck at a depth of 24km (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 landslip 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 and a 14-year-old Indonesian boy were killed in the landslip, Mr Nugroho said.

He said rescuers managed to evacuate 22 Malaysians and 14 Indonesians from the waterfall site and 56 others — mostly local surveyors from government institutions, the military and the police — from the mountainous area.

At least 182 people were injured in the quake, including 26 Malaysians, Mr Nugroho said.

About 525 homes were damaged, including 32 that were flattened.–PA