June 21, 2006

Landslides, floods kill 87 in Indonesia

SINJAI REGENCY, Indonesia (Reuters) - Landslides and floods
on Indonesia's eastern Sulawesi island have killed 87 people
and the toll could rise further, officials said on Wednesday.

A search-and-rescue operation was under way after two days
of heavy rain in several parts of South Sulawesi province.
Sinjai regency was the worst-hit area after flooding early on
Tuesday, rescuers and police said.

"Excavations for those who were buried are still in
progress," a Reuters witness in Sinjai said, adding that the
military, police, and search and rescue teams had reached the

"The total death toll is 87, and 12 people are still
missing. Sinjai has the most dead people, 77," Moersen Buana of
the disaster task force said by telephone from the provincial
capital, Makassar, about 1,400 km (870 miles) east of Jakarta.

Saktianto, a search-and-rescue official in Makassar, said
many people were feared buried under mud in areas rescuers
could only reach by foot.

"The flash flood has receded, leaving mud and damaged
houses. Many houses were severely damaged and have become
ruins," the Reuters witness said.

Torrential rains and landslides are regular features of
tropical Indonesia. Rampant deforestation often adds to the
ease with which hillsides are saturated and collapse,
environmentalists say.

The central government had sent blankets, medicines and
sarongs for the affected people of Sulawesi, Social Minister
Bachtiar Chamsah told reporters in Jakarta.

He said he had instructed ministry officials at the
disaster sites to evacuate people to safe areas.

Health minister Siti Fadilah Supari said her ministry had
sent medicine, biscuits and 200 body bags.

(With additional reporting by Muklis Ali and Diyan Jari in