June 21, 2006

Landslides, floods kill 114 in Indonesia

SINJAI, Indonesia (Reuters) - Landslides and floods on
Indonesia's eastern Sulawesi island have killed 114 people and
the toll could rise further, officials said on Wednesday.

A search-and-rescue operation was underway 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

Many people were feared buried under mud in areas rescuers
could only reach by foot, said Saktianto, a search-and-rescue
official in Makassar, South Sulawesi's capital about 1,400 km
(870 miles) east of Jakarta.

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

So far 114 people had died, Moersen Buana of the disaster
task force told Reuters by telephone from Makassar.

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 Telly Nathalia
in Jakarta)