Flash flood and mudslides triggered by days of torrential downpours tore through mountainside villages in Indonesia‘s easternmost province, killing at least 50 people and wounding 59 others.
The disaster in Papua province’s Jayapura district submerged hundreds of houses in neck-high water and mud, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday.
The floods and slides also destroyed roads and bridges, hampering rescue efforts.
Nugroho said 50 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Sunday, and another 59 people were hospitalised, many with broken bones and head wounds. He said the number of dead and injured is likely to increase since many affected areas have 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.”
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) March 17, 2019
Sentani subdistrict was the worst hit in the disaster, where a landslide early on Sunday was followed minutes later by a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents in a fast-moving deluge of water, heavy logs and debris, said the local disaster mitigation agency head Martono.
Papua’s provincial administration has declared a two-week emergency in order to get assistance from the central government.
Papua military spokesperson Colonel Muhammad Aidi said rescuers managed to save two injured infants who had been trapped for more than six hours.
The parents of one of the babies were washed away and died.
Martono said rescuers have been evacuating more than 4,000 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 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.
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.