June 22, 2006

Landslides, floods kill over 200 in Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian rescuers scoured mud-filled
homes for bodies and some survivors suffered diarrhoea and skin
diseases after landslides and floods on eastern Sulawesi island
killed 210 people, officials said on Thursday.

A search-and-rescue operation has been underway in South
Sulawesi province after two days of heavy rain at the beginning
of the week, but officials said some areas were inaccessible
because roads and bridges had been damaged.

Another 104 people were missing in Sinjai regency, the
worst-hit area after flooding early on Tuesday that turned
swathes of land into vast lakes.

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.

Rahman Bando, South Sulawesi branch head of the Indonesian
Red Cross, said 180 people had died in Sinjai alone and 30 had
died in other regencies in the province.

"We have provided public kitchens and our volunteers are
looking for victims. Several areas are unreachable. Bridges and
roads are broken. We walk in the rivers," he told Reuters by
phone from the provincial capital of Makassar.

Makassar is about 1,400 km (870 miles) east of Jakarta.

Torrential rains and landslides are regular features of
tropical Indonesia.

"Water is receding. Search and rescue teams keep searching
in homes filled with mud," said Moersen Buana of the disaster
task force in Makassar.

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

Diarrhoea and skin diseases have begun appearing, Buana

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.