JAKARTA (AFP) – The death toll from flash floods and landslides in Indonesia has risen to 31, an official said Sunday, as search crews scour devastated villages in the hope of finding survivors.
Nineteen people remain missing following torrential rain and widespread flooding in Central Java, where thousands of homes have been swamped in water.
Areas prone to landslides in the densely-populated province have been worst hit, with drivers swept off roads and dozens of homes completely destroyed by fast-moving walls of mud, rock and water.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the number of victims rose after seven peoplebelieved missing were found dead.
“So far we’ve recovered 31 bodies. Nineteen people are still missing,” Sutopo told AFP in a text message.
In Banjarnegara, where six people were killed in an avalanche of mud, residents were bracing for the prospect of further floods. Emergency crews were trying to clear roads of felled trees and rocks dumped by huge landslides, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
Elsewhere victims were swept away by floodwaters and buried in their homes as landslides swept through villages. In one district, nine people were killed as they attempted to clear rubble from a blocked road.
“Suddenly a huge landslide struck the cars and people on the street. Nine bodies were retrieved,” Sutopo said earlier in a statement.
Evacuation centres, equipped with temporary shelters and kitchens, have been erected near the disaster zones for those escaping the worst-hit areas.
Footage aired by local broadcasters showed villagers sitting on their roofs to escape the rising water, their cars and homes submerged in brown water.
Landslides are not uncommon in Indonesia, a vast tropical archipelago prone to natural disasters and torrential downpours.
Last month, 15 students holidaying at a popular tourist spot in western Indonesia were killed when a landslide swept through their camp ground.