SENTANI, Indonesia (AFP) – At least 89 people are known to have died after flash floods and landslides tore through Indonesia’s Papua region, with the toll expected to rise further as rescuers hunt for dozens still missing, the national disaster agency said yesterday.
Scores have also been injured in the disaster, triggered by torrential rain last Saturday, with some 6,800 people evacuated to temporary shelters.
The military has taken up the grim task of putting mud-caked corpses into body bags, with the search hampered by mountains of debris including rocks and fallen trees.
Seventy-four people remain unaccounted for, while around 150 suffered broken bones, cuts and other injuries.
“Many people are choosing to stay at shelters because they’re still traumatised and scared of more flash floods, so some evacuation centres are packed,” said National Disaster Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
The government has issued a 14-day state of emergency in Papua, which shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea on an island just north of Australia.
Flooding is common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season which runs from October to April.
In January, floods and landslides killed at least 70 people on Sulawesi island, while earlier this month hundreds in West Java province were forced to evacuate when torrential rains triggered severe flooding.