JEMBER, Indonesia (AFP) -Rescue workers are picking through debris and mud Tuesday searching for victims of flash floods that inundated villages in Indonesia’s East Java, as the death toll rose to 57.
Local police officer Agus Ilham said the hunt for more victims after the floods, which swept away hundreds of homes in Jember district, 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of the capital, continued in poor weather.
Rescue efforts were also hampered by transport difficulties, with some villages cut off because of the flooding, he told AFP.
Erman Harjoprayitno, from the disaster coordinating agency in Surabaya, told AFP the toll had risen to 57 dead and 50 injured.
“The injured have been taken to local clinics and hospitals,” he told AFP by telephone.
The floods followed two days of monsoon rains which caused a river to swell and burst its banks.
A local journalist, Budi Sugiharto, said the scene in the flooded zone was reminiscent of the December 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia’s Aceh province on Sumatra island.
Some 168,000 Acehnese were killed in the catastrophe.
“The devastation in areas near the river banks reminds me of the destruction caused by the tsunami. Houses were flattened, with only the foundations remaining,” he told AFP.
He said rescue workers had built emergency bridges to access isolated areas in the hills and move villagers to safer areas. Children clung to soldiers as they were removed from the inundated zones.
About 4,000 people had sought refuge in schools, mosques and government buildings, Sugiharto said.
Local activists have blamed illegal logging for the tragedy.
Severe flooding is not unusual during Indonesia’s rainy season.
More than 200 people were killed in 2003 when flash floods tore through Bahorok, a popular riverside resort in North Sumatra, destroying more than 450 buildings. The disaster was blamed largely on illegal logging.