June 21, 2006

Landslides, floods kill 188 in Indonesia’s Sulawesi

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian rescuers scoured mud-filled
homes for bodies and some survivors suffered diarrhea and skin
diseases after landslides and floods on eastern Sulawesi island
killed 188 people, officials said on Thursday.

Nearly 150 people were missing.

A search-and-rescue operation has been underway in South
Sulawesi province after two days of heavy rain at the beginning
of the week. Sinjai regency was the worst-hit area after
flooding early on Tuesday, police and disaster officials say.

The Indonesian military, police and civilian search and
rescue teams have been scouring the affected areas trying to
recover bodies and digging into mud from landslides or left
behind by the floods to look for survivors.

"Water is receding. Search and rescue teams keep searching
in homes filled with mud," Moersen Buana of the disaster task
force told Reuters by telephone from the provincial capital,

"Sanitation is becoming a problem. People can't use regular
toilets because water systems are totally destroyed," he added.

diarrhea and skin diseases have begun appearing, Buana

He said 174 people were killed in Sinjai alone and the
total number of those missing in the disaster zone was 145.
Makassar is about 1,400 km (870 miles) east of Jakarta.

Torrential rains and landslides are regular features of
tropical Indonesia.

Rampant deforestation often adds to the ease with which
hillsides are saturated and collapse as well as to flooding,
since the lack of vegetation means less ground water is
retained, environmentalists say.

Sulawesi is resource-rich, with numerous mining operations,
but those are far from the affected areas, a mines ministry
official said on Wednesday.

"The landslide is in the south where there is no mining
operation. Mining operations in other areas have no problem,"
M.S. Marpaung, director of mineral resources in the mines and
energy ministry, told Reuters.

The central government has sent blankets, medicines and
sarongs and instructed local officials to help people move to
safer areas.