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Over 21 killed in landslides

The landslides were triggered by heavy rains in the island of Flores. Dozens were still missing as rescue teams had not been able to reach the affected areas, officials said on Saturday.

world Updated: Mar 04, 2007, 02:31 IST

At least 21 people have been killed in landslides triggered by heavy rains on the eastern Indonesian island of Flores, and dozens more are still missing, officials said Saturday.

Entire houses were washed away by flash floods, and authorities said rescue teams had still not been able to reach the affected areas.
"Twenty-one bodies have been evacuated so far and three people have been found alive," East Manggarai district head Christian Rotok told ElShinta radio.

The injured were being treated in the local subdistrict health centre. No further details were available on their condition.

"As of 4:45 pm (0845 GMT) the evacuation teams had still not been able to reach the affected areas," said Rotok earlier, adding that local residents were themselves managing evacuation efforts.

"We have warned people through local radio to move away from critical areas near the big river," he said, adding that people were taking refuge in local churches.

"The Ruteng-Cibal road will be totally impassable for the next one or two days, this means the district capital will be paralysed," he said, adding that the road is the main distribution line especially for fuel.

Rotok also said that many rice fields were destroyed because of the landslides, which will lead to food shortages in the district in the near future.

Houses in two other districts were also reported to have been washed away by flash floods that followed five days of heavy rain in the area.

Authorities are preparing to send food supplies to displaced people in the affected areas.

Telephone communication to the area has been almost entirely cut off since the landslides late Friday.

With phone lines down, search and rescue teams are instead having to rely on citizen band radio, with all information coordinated by the disaster management office in the provincial capital, Kupang.

Johnny Erasmus from the disaster management coordination office here said that the evacuation effort was being hampered by limited access.
"(Provincial authorities) have requested the police and military help with evacuation efforts," he said.

Erasmus said bad weather had also prevented the delivery of body bags to areas that had requested them.

Heavy downpours in the island caused 11,000 people in the Reok subdistricts to leave their homes after floods hit the area on Thursday.
Indonesia is currently at the height of the monsoon season, with heavy rains causing landslides and flooding in various parts of the archipelago.

ht epaper

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