Overflowing dam kills at least 30 in Indonesia

Rescue workers evacuate residents following floods in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Jan 23, 2019.
Rescue workers evacuate residents following floods in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Jan 23, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS, AFP) - An overflowing dam has killed at least 30 people in Indonesia and forced thousands to flee their villages, the authorities said on Thursday (Jan 24). Twenty-five people are missing.

Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency has set up temporary shelters and field kitchens for residents fleeing floodwaters over a metre high that inundated riverside settlements in South Sulawesi province, including in the provincial capital Makassar, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Rescuers and residents waded through streets filled with waist-deep water, some carrying their belongings above their heads. More than 3,000 people have been evacuated and at least 46 are being treated at local hospitals and health clinics. 

“We urge people to always be aware of the possibility of floods and landslides,” said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. 

Agency official Hasriadi said: "So far we have found 30 people who drowned or were caught in landslides triggered by heavy rains and when the Bili-Bili dam started overflowing."

One major highway has been blocked, prompting the authorities to deliver aid via helicopter, according to media.

Aerial images showed muddy brown water covering swathes of lands and, in some areas, rushing water washing away houses and debris.

Landslides and flooding are common in Indonesia, especially during the monsoon season between October and April, when rain lashes the vast Southeast Asian archipelago. 

In October, flash floods and landslides killed at least 22 people in several districts across Sumatra island.  On Thursday, the disaster agency said that while flooding in South Sulawesi province was receding “the search and evacuation process is still ongoing”. 

The floods also damaged houses, government buildings, schools and bridges.