Saturday, March 28, 2009

Death toll rises to 69

CIRENDEU (Indonesia) - INDONESIA'S search and rescue agency says the number of people killed when a dam burst outside the capital has climbed to at least 69. Dozens more remain missing.

Local police chief Capt. Ngisa Asngari said on Saturday that hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers were digging through piles of mud and debris in search of survivors or more bodies. Heavy rain caused a decades-old dam outside Jakarta to burst early Friday sending a wall of water crashing into a crowded neighbourhood. Some survivors have compared the latest disaster to a tsunami.

Muddy water breaking free from the dam swept into hundreds of homes, many of whose occupants were still asleep.

More than 400 houses were submerged by the flash flood, with the water levels reaching the rooftop in some places. Many trees were uprooted and cars tossed around by the force of the water.

People living near the Situ Gintung dam in Cirendeu, a suburb of Tangerang in Banten province, said they heard sirens go off just before the dam burst, following a four-hour downpour.

Those still fast asleep had no chance to make a run for it.

Cirendeu has a mix of middle-class residences and crowded slum housing.

Rescuers, some of them using rubber dinghies to reach the victims, told reporters that the casualty figures could rise as many victims remained trapped in their submerged homes.

The Health Ministry's Crisis Centre chief, Mr Rustam Pakaya, said the dam was breached after 2am while most people were sleeping.

Mr Sutedja, who is an early riser, told The Straits Times that he immediately got his wife and two-year-old son out of their house once he knew the dam was about to burst.

As the family of three headed for higher ground, Mr Sutedja said he saw waves of muddy water sweeping into his neighbourhood and flattening his house, which was 30m from the dam.

'I don't have anything left. The clothes I'm wearing now is all that I have left,' said the 32-year-old fish cracker vendor. Another resident compared his experience to 'being in the middle of a tsunami'.

Additional information from AP

No comments: