Floods in Indonesia kill nearly 40 people

Residents salvaging belongings from their homes after heavy rains in Bengkulu on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, on April 27, 2019.
Residents salvaging belongings from their homes after heavy rains in Bengkulu on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, on April 27, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

BENGKULU (Sumatra) • Floods sparked by torrential rains have killed nearly 40 in Indonesia with a dozen more still missing, officials said yesterday, marking the latest calamity for a disaster-prone nation.

Landslides and floods are common during the monsoon season between October and April, when rains lash the vast South-east Asian archipelago.

Indonesia's disaster agency confirmed 29 deaths and said at least 13 people are missing in Bengkulu province on Sumatra island.

A landslide triggered by heavy rain in neighbouring Lampung province last Saturday also killed a family of six.

Meanwhile, flooding in and around parts of the capital Jakarta last week killed at least two people, forced more than 2,000 to evacuate their homes and set 14 pet pythons on the loose.

In Bogor, a satellite city of Jakarta, residents had to contend with the prospect of coming face to face with the giant serpents, after they were set loose from a private property because of the high waters.

Six of the snakes - which are as long as 4m - have been found, but eight are still missing, officials said at the weekend.

In Sumatra, about 12,000 residents have been evacuated from water-logged Bengkulu with hundreds of buildings, bridges and roads damaged. The authorities have set up temporary shelters and public kitchens for those displaced by the rains.

The hardest hit was Bengkulu Tengah district, just outside of the provincial capital, where 22 people were killed along with hundreds of livestock.

Illegal coal mining was partly to blame for the deadly landslides, the authorities said. "Apart from natural factors like the heavy rain, (the flooding) was also caused by human activity that destroys the environment," disaster agency head Doni Monardo told reporters in Bengkulu yesterday.

Activists have long warned that deforestation from rampant mining in the province could trigger a catastrophe. At least four major rivers in Bengkulu overflow every time it rains because of environmental damage near their banks, activists said.

In Sulawesi this year, about 70 people were killed by floods and landslides that wiped entire villages off the map. Nearly 10,000 people were displaced.

Last month, about 112 people died and more than 90 remain missing after torrential rains pounded Indonesia's Papua region, triggering landslides and flash floods.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'Floods in Indonesia kill nearly 40 people'. Print Edition | Subscribe