At least 29 dead after flash floods in Indonesia

Heavy rain unleashed flash floods and mudslides, killing 29 people in a remote corner of Indonesia which rescuers were still struggling to reach days after the storms began, officials and witnesses said today.

With dozens still missing, residents in West Papua province's hillside village of Wasior were combing the mud in search of survivors, some with their bare hands. Hundreds of homes were destroyed.

"I heard a roar and suddenly the river near my home broke its banks," said Ira Wanoni, describing the most frightening deluge, which happened early yesterday.

"Water mixed with rocks, mud and logs gushed out... Many people didn't have time to save themselves."

With many roads under water, rescue workers were having a hard time reaching the area, which has also been hit by power blackouts and downed telephone lines. Some of the more than 60 people injured - most with broken bones - had to be evacuated to by helicopter.

Mujiharto, who heads the Ministry of Health's crisis centre, said rescuers had pulled 29 bodies from beneath tons of heavy, dark mud and debris but dozens were still missing, meaning the death toll could rise.

With hundreds of homes damaged - at least 30 of them completely flattened - thousands of people have had to flee the area.

"We need tents to shelter people," Decky Amnir, head of the local Disaster Management Agency, told reporters in Wondama district. "And medical supplies too."

Landslides and flooding kill dozens of people every year in the vast tropical archipelago of Indonesia, which has more than 17,000 islands.