Flash floods kill at least 50 in Indonesia's Papua


Jayapura (Indonesia) (AFP)

Flash floods in Indonesia's eastern Papua province have killed at least 50 people, an official said Sunday, as rescuers raced to help dozens of other victims of the disaster.

The floods in Sentani, near the provincial capital of Jayapura, were triggered by torrential rain and landslides on Saturday, leaving some 59 people injured.

Dozens of homes were damaged by floodwaters, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

"The number of casualties and impact of the disaster will likely increase as search and rescue teams are still trying to reach other affected areas," he added.

"The flash floods were likely caused by a landslide."

The waters had receded but officials were still trying to evacuate people from hard-hit areas.

"The joint search and rescue teams are still doing evacuations and not all affected areas have been reached because of fallen trees, rocks, mud and other material," Nugroho said.

In Doyo, one of the most affected areas, a housing complex was littered with huge rocks believed to have rolled down from a nearby mountain, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Video footage showed rescuers administering oxygen to a victim who appeared trapped beneath a fallen tree.

Uprooted trees and other debris were strewn across muddy roads, while at Jayapura's small airport a propeller plane lay partly crushed on a runway.

"The rain started last night and went on until around 1:00 am this morning," said Lilis Puji Hastuti, a 29-year-old mother of two young children in Sentani.

"Our house was flooded with thick mud ... we immediately grabbed our valuables and ran to a neighbour's (two-storey) house to seek refuge.

"It's hard to get out of the area because many roads are blocked ... I'm worried, sad and scared all at one time," she added.

In Sentani, tents have been set up to take in flood victims and treat the wounded.

Papua shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea on an island just north of Australia.

Flooding is common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season which runs from October to April.

In January, floods and landslides killed at least 70 people on Sulawesi island, while earlier this month hundreds in West Java province were forced to evacuate when torrential rains triggered severe flooding.

The Southeast Asian archipelago of some 17,000 islands is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth, straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common.

In December, the western part of Java island was slammed by a deadly volcano-triggered tsunami that killed about 400 people.

Also last year, the city of Palu in Sulawesi was rocked by a quake-tsunami disaster that killed thousands, while hundreds of others died in a series of quakes that hit the holiday island of Lombok, next to Bali.