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80 Die in Flash Floods, Earthquake     03/18 06:43

   JAYAPURA, Indonesia (AP) -- The number of people killed after torrential 
downpours triggered flash floods and mudslides that tore through mountainside 
villages in Indonesia's easternmost province has climbed to 79, with dozens of 
others missing, officials said Monday.

   On Sunday, the disaster-prone country was hit by an earthquake, triggering a 
landslide that hit a popular waterfall on the tourist island of Lombok, killing 
at least three people and damaging hundreds of homes.

   The worst-hit area from the flooding was Sentani subdistrict, where tons of 
mud, rocks and trees from a landslide on a mountain early Sunday rolled down to 
a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents, National Disaster 
Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in the 
capital, Jakarta.

   Floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of 
Papua province's Jayapura district following days of torrential rains, 
hampering rescue efforts, Nugroho said.

   "The combination of natural factors and human activities has caused this 
fatal disaster," he said.

   Nugroho said 79 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled 
homes by Sunday. Another 74 people were hospitalized, many with broken bones 
and head wounds.

   Nugroho said the number of dead and injured would likely increase since 
affected areas had not been reached and rescuers were still searching for 
dozens of people reportedly still missing.

   "We are overwhelmed by too many injuries," said Haerul Lee, the head of the 
Jayapura health office, adding that some medical facilities had been hit by 
power outages. "We can't handle it alone."

   Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi said rescuers saved two injured 
infants who had been trapped for more than six hours. The parents of one of the 
babies were washed away and died.

   Nugroho said rescuers evacuated more than 4,200 people to temporary shelters 
as more than 600 houses and buildings were damaged and submerged.

   Television footage showed hundreds of rescuers and members of the police and 
military evacuating residents to shelters at a government office. Others were 
carrying bodies in black and orange body bags. Ambulances and vehicles were 
seen carrying victims on muddy roads to several clinics and hospitals.

   Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods and kill dozens each 
year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in 
mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

   Meanwhile, a moderately strong earthquake triggered a landslide on Lombok 
island on Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 
5.5 and struck at a depth of 23 kilometers (15 miles).

   The earthquake was felt across the island, located next to Bali, panicking 
residents still recovering from a major quake last August that killed more than 
300 people and left thousands homeless.

   Sunday's quake triggered a landslide from Mount Rinjani and hit dozens of 
tourists at the Tiu Kelep waterfall located in the foothills of the active 
volcano, said Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman.

   Two Malaysians and a 14-year-old Indonesian boy were killed in the 
landslide, Nugroho said.

   He said rescuers managed to evacuate 22 Malaysians and 14 Indonesians from 
the waterfall site, and 56 others --- mostly local surveyors from government 
institutions, the military and the police --- from the mountainous area.

   At least 182 people were injured in the quake, including 26 Malaysians, 
Nugroho said. About 525 homes were damaged, including 32 that were flattened.

   Indonesia sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and has frequent earthquakes 
and volcanic eruptions.

   U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations was ready to 
help Indonesia cope with the disasters.

   "The United Nations expresses its solidarity with the Indonesian authorities 
and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs 
resulting from both natural disasters," the spokesman for the secretary-general 
said in a statement.


(KA)

 
 
 
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