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Scores drowned after dam burst near Jakarta

Latest update : 2009-03-28

A dam burst its walls following heavy rains near the Indonesian capital Jakarta, killing at least 52 people and leaving hundreds of homes underwater. Thousands of people are still awaiting rescue.

AFP - A dam burst its banks near the Indonesian capital Jakarta early Friday, drowning 52 people in a deadly torrent of muddy water that flooded hundreds of homes, health ministry officials said.

Dozens of others were missing after the dam burst overnight while people were asleep, giving them little chance to flee a wall of water that came crashing into low-lying homes and that residents compared to a tsunami.

Houses and concrete buildings were flattened and buckled by the force of the water, which left many survivors in the Jakarta suburb of Cireundeu trapped on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

"This disaster happened so suddenly," said Danang Susanto, an official with the health ministry's crisis centre. "Because people were sleeping they couldn't get away."

He estimated up to 500 homes were destroyed or submerged after heavy rains caused the breach in the earthen dam at the edge of Situ Gintung lake in Cireundeu. The water in some places was six metres (20 feet) high.

"Residents are being evacuated. About half of them are still on rooftops," said Rustam Pakaya, who heads the crisis centre.

A nearby university assembly hall was converted into a makeshift morgue, where mud-smeared residents searched for missing loved ones among the bodies of the dead lined up on the floor.

Ghufron, a 17-year-old student, said he narrowly escaped waters that crashed into his home, but an uncle was dead and three other relatives were missing.

"By the time I woke up the water was up to my nose. I climbed to the roof to save myself. I heard people screaming and shouting," he said.

Red cross ambulance worker Dedet Mulyadi said many flood victims had wounds caused by debris and branches.

"Most of the victims are in shock," he said.

Television images showed bodies floating through the twisting streets nearby and water rushing through the breach in the earthen dam.

"It was like being in the middle of a tsunami," a local resident named Minu told news website Detikcom.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie visited the disaster area to inspect the rescue operations and visit the victims, Metro TV reported.

"We will provide emergency help to the victims. For those whose homes were destroyed, the government will help with the repairs," Kalla said.

Local media reported that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would head to the area before election rallies for his Democratic Party, which is vying for seats in legislative elections next month.

State power company PLN shut off electricity to the flood-hit area, where five of its power stations were submerged, Detikcom reported.

Floods and landslides are common in Indonesia during the wet season, which falls around the northern hemisphere's summer.


Date created : 2009-03-27