JAKARTA – Indonesian authorities raised on Monday the death toll to 79 and the number of missing to 43 due to heavy flooding in the province of Papua where search and rescue work are underway.
The secretary of the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) in Papua, Wisnu Aditya, said that 79 people were injured, including 38 critically, in the Sentani District, where more than 4,700 were displaced, following seven hours of heavy downpour that led to severe flooding.
The violent downpour had flooded part of the city of Sentani, located at the base of the Cycloop mountains and its surroundings, and dragged vehicles, tree trunks and other materials in its path, hitting buildings and other structures.
“We have not managed to reach some affected areas because the main roads are blocked by trees and mud,” Wisnu told EFE.
He added that search and rescue operations will continue at least until March 30 and that the death toll is expected to rise further.
At least 11,725 families have been affected and most of the displaced have been put up in several shelters in Sentani, said national spokesperson of BNPB, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, in a statement.
The governor of Jayapura municipality, whose capital is Sentani, has set up complimentary medical services and public kitchens to address the humanitarian emergency following the disaster.
Images released by Nugroho show the force of the torrent that had rushed through Papua and the subsequent floods where the water was waist high.
The western half of the island of New Guinea, where the province of Papua is located, belongs to Indonesia and is a territory rich in natural resources, although underdeveloped, while the eastern part belongs to the Republic of Papua New Guinea.
Floods and landslides affect Indonesia each year during the rainy season which peaks between December and February.
In January, at least 68 people were killed in floods and landslides that had hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Nearly 7,000 people were forced out of their homes after water levels swelled two meters (seven feet) high, affecting 188 towns in the South Sulawesi island, according to Indonesian agency for disaster management (BNPB).
The rains had swept away part of the region’s infrastructure, inundated almost 12,000 hectares (29,653 acres) of paddy fields and damaged nine bridges, six places of worship and 13 educational centers.
The country is one of the most disaster-prone in the world as it sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activities, where some 7,000 earthquakes, mostly moderate, are recorded each year.