Officials said on Tuesday the death toll could rise still further as the search through the wreckage of logs, boulders and collapsed guesthouses continued into its third day.
Mangled houses perched on eroded banks along the Barohok river, which cuts through one of Indonesia’s biggest national parks, made the search harder. Upended tree roots, as tall as two-storey houses, were tangled with the remains of homes, trucks and other vehicles.
Rain, mud and collapsed roads and bridges in the Gunung Leuser National Park on Sumatra island were also hampering rescue work, officials said.
Along with the surging floodwaters came hundreds of logs illegally felled on nearby slopes and washed down the river.
The logs smashed into scores of homes, many of them tin-roofed bamboo structures, as well as resort cottages on the riverbank.
Pasaribu said about 450 homes and other buildings were destroyed along with 35 resort cottages, two mosques and eight bridges.
Hundreds of Brimob paramilitary police and troops used chainsaws to clear logs and used heavy equipment to remove motorbikes, cars and other debris, as the smell of rotting corpses hung in the air. Police dogs were brought in to sniff for bodies.
An Indonesian woman mourns a
Langkat district chief, Syamsul Arifin, said on Monday the flood was caused by illegal logging in the national park and described it as a disaster waiting to happen.
“We know who the bosses and the thieves are. The victims are not only the environment but also humans. We have predicted this,” Arifin said.
Enda Hartanta Bangun, an engineer with a state plantation company, said weeks of heavy rain were partly to blame.
“The water buffer has been severely depleted due to
illegal logging in Gunung Leuser. This is not a pure natural
disaster,” he said.
Women sobbed as they waited for news of loved ones. Nur Rahma, 35, saw three of her children, aged between 18 months and six, swept away. “I still hope my children are alive. I will keep looking till their bodies are found,” she said.
“I still hope my children are alive. I will keep looking till their bodies are found,”
Nur Rahma, mother of three missing children
Bodies were laid out in part of a mosque courtyard before being taken to a morgue in Medan. On the other side a shelter had been rigged up for the homeless.
Bahorok, 96km northwest of Medan, is on the eastern fringes of the park. It is the home of a famed orangutan refuge, which is popular with tourists who also go trekking and whitewater rafting.
Eight foreigners who escaped the deluge were evacuated to Medan and Binjai. Some, such as Californians Tom Donelly and Tyson Murphy, had miraculous escapes. “We were asleep when the flash floods hit our room,” Donelly, 26, told reporters.
“We were up to our necks and then we were swept out of our room but we managed to grab two trees and climbed up them. “We were the luckiest people in the world.”