Flash floods and mudslides triggered by days of torrential rains tore through mountainside villages in Indonesia‘s easternmost Papua province, killing at least 58 people, wounding scores and forcing more than 4,000 from their homes.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the national disaster agency, told reporters on Sunday that 51 people were killed in the town of Sentani, where 74 others were injured.
Heavy rain caused landslides in the nearby provincial capital of Jayapura, killing seven people there, Nugroho added, noting that number of dead and injured may increase since many affected areas had not been reached.
The dead included three children who drowned after the floods began late on Saturday.
“We are overwhelmed by too many injuries,” said Haerul Lee, the head of Jayapura health office, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by power outages. “We can’t handle it alone.”
Sentani was the worst hit in the disaster, where a landslide early on Sunday was minutes later followed by the flooding of a river, sweeping away residents, heavy logs and debris, said Martono, the local disaster mitigation agency head.
Papua’s provincial administration has declared a two-week emergency in order to get assistance from the central government.
Colonel Muhammad Aidi, Papua military spokesperson, said rescuers managed to save two injured infants who had been trapped for more than six hours. The parents of one of the babies died.
Martono said rescuers have been evacuating more than 4,000 people to temporary shelters.
Television footage showed hundreds of rescuers and members of the police and military evacuating residents to shelters at a government office. Ambulances and vehicles were seen carrying victims on muddy roads to several clinics and hospitals.
#UPDATE: Death toll in #Indonesia's flash floods rose to 63. Researchers are rushing to search and rescue dozens more after flash floods hit Jayapura district of Papua province in the country on Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/BDfRlw7tah
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) March 17, 2019
In Doyo, a housing complex was littered with huge rocks believed to have rolled down from a nearby mountain, according to an AFP news agency reporter at the scene.
Video footage showed rescuers administering oxygen to a victim who appeared trapped beneath a fallen tree.
Uprooted trees and other debris were strewn across muddy roads, while at Jayapura’s small airport a propeller plane lay partly crushed on a runway.
“The rain started last night and went on until around 1:00 am this morning,” said Lilis Puji Hastuti, a 29-year-old mother of two young children in Sentani.
“Our house was flooded with thick mud … we immediately grabbed our valuables and ran to a neighbour’s house to seek refuge. It’s hard to get out of the area because many roads are blocked … I’m worried, sad and scared all at one time,” she added.
Papua shares a border with 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.
The Southeast Asian archipelago of some 17,000 islands is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth, straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.