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Floods hit Langkat, 92 killed LANGKAT - Flash floods ripped through a popular resort town in North Sumatra late Sunday night, killing at least 92 people, including five foreign tourists. Hundreds of others were missing feared dead, while downed communication lines and demolished bridges hampered rescue efforts, officials said on Monday. Around 420 houses, including five tourist cottages, were destroyed or damaged when floodwaters, mud, trees and other debris hit the Bukit Lawang resort in Bahorok subdistrict, Langkat regency.
The floods, triggered by days of heavy rains and severe deforestation, hit Bahorok, about 100 kilometers from the North Sumatra capital Medan, from 10 p.m. on Sunday till 1 a.m Monday. Bahorok river, which flows down from nearby mountains, and smaller rivers burst their banks and washed away residential areas and dozens of guesthouses that host tourists in the area famous around the world as an orangutan rehabilitation center.
The foreigners killed were identified by police only as Mathias and Lusi from the United States, Austria's Florian Lub, Singapore's Tan Tek Kai and Eli from Germany. Their bodies were taken to the Adam Malik General Hospital in Medan. Also among the dead were a group of 20 domestic tourists from West Sumatra. Officials at the Bukit Lawang disaster handling task force said they had found at least 92 bodies by late Monday evening, while other sources put the death toll at more than 100.
Most of the dead villagers could not be identified as they were not carrying identity cards. At least 67 people were injured and were being treated at the Djulham Binjai General Hospital, the task force said. The number of dead will likely soar as a rescue team assisted by hundreds of local police and government officials as well as villagers were searching for missing people, reportedly numbering in the hundreds.
The rescue workers removed the dead from the wreckage of destroyed buildings. Some other bodies were unearthed from mud or unearthed under other debris. Survivors told The Jakarta Post that most of the dead were drowned, while others were killed as the floods and fallen trees ripped through their homes or cottages. At least five rivers in the subdistricts of Batang Serangan, Wampu, Bahorok, Tanjung Pura and Sawit Seberang overflowed after the rains. However, the worst floods came from the Bahorok river that runs through the township of Bahorok, home to around 43,109 people.
Deni, a 24-year old survivor, said the floods hit quickly as most people slept. The flooding demolished three bridges in Bahorok and houses near riverbanks, he said. "The floods came at midnight. Floodwaters were at the height of up to six meters above the river banks," he said, adding that 19 of his family members and relatives, including both sets of parents, had drowned. Deni was rescued by villagers after six hours pinned beneath logs.
Langkat Regent Syamsul Arifin visited the scene and expressed condolences to the victims, saying the floods were the worst ever to hit the town. He blamed the disaster on severe deforestation in Mount Leuser National Park. "The deforestation has continued unchecked by loggers from within and outside Langkat. We have several times tried to stop them, but illegal logging continues," Arifin said.
The government and Indonesian Military are widely known to profit from the trade but no concrete action is ever taken against them, despite the political rhetoric. Also visiting the scene were North Sumatra Governor Tengku Rizal Nurdin, Bukit Barisan Military Commander Maj. Gen. Tri Tamtomo and North Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Edy Sunarno. Hundreds of local villagers fled Bukit Lawang to take refuge in safer areas in order to avoid the possibility of further flooding. They were accommodated at several places like schools and local government offices.

Posted in Weather @ 03 November 2003 00:05 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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