Flash floods kill 35 in Indonesia

Flash floods and landslides have killed at least 35 people and damaged thousands of homes in Java, Indonesia.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People stand in front of a flooded area in Central Java province, Indonesia, June 19, 2016

Landslides and flash floods in Indonesia’s Central Java province have killed at least 35 people and wrecked dozens of homes, officials said on Sunday.

The torrential downpour damaged thousands of homes and forced residents to evacuate. Rescue workers scrambled to locate survivors in the devastated villages.

Dozens remained missing after the densely populated region saw heavy rainfall overnight.

“Heavy rain has caused floods and landslides in 16 regencies in Central Java,” spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency, Sutopo Nugroho, said in a statement.

He further added, “rescue teams from the military, police, NGOs and volunteers, are contributing to the handling of the emergency and the search continues for those still missing.”

Areas in Central Java province which were prone to landslides have been most negatively impacted. Rapid-flowing walls of water, rock and mud swept drivers off roads and completely destroyed dozens of homes. 

Indonesian soldiers search for landslide victims at Caok village in Purworejo, Central Java province, Indonesia, June 19, 2016.

On TV villagers were shown seeking refuge on rooftops from the rising water, while their homes and cars were submerged in murky brown water.

"The number of casualties from floods and landslides in Central Java is 35 people dead, 25 people missing and 14 injured," said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The area which witnessed the most devastation was Purworejo district on Java’s south coast, where 19 people were killed, he said.

Nine people died as they struggled to clear rubble from a blocked road, in one incident in the district.

"Suddenly a huge landslide struck the cars and people on the street. Nine bodies were retrieved," Sutopo said.

Six people were killed in an avalanche of mud, in Banjarnegara, where residents were bracing for the possibility of more floods. Emergency teams were trying to clear roads of rocks and felled trees deposited by huge landslides, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

Heavy lifting machinery was employed in the search for survivors in Purworejo but access to sites elsewhere proved challenging, said Sutopo.

In some areas hundreds of rescue workers were forced to clear debris with their bare hands.

In proximity to the disaster zones, evacuation centres, equipped with temporary shelters and kitchens, have been erected.

Late Sunday, Sutopo said that the flooding had substantially subsided but he warned people to remain vigilant as heavy rainfall could continue into the following day.

Landslides are a common occurrence in Indonesia, a vast tropical archipelago plagued by torrential downpours and natural disasters.

Last month 15 students vacationing at a popular tourist destination in western Indonesia were killed when a landslide tore through their camp ground.


AFP, Reuters