Warship leads flood relief efforts in Indonesia

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The Independent Online

A navy warship arrived in a remote corner of eastern Indonesia carrying tents and medical supplies today after flash floods and mudslides tore through mountainside villages, killing at least 68 people and leaving thousands homeless.

The disaster in West Papua province - triggered by days of torrential downpours - destroyed roads and bridges, hampering rescue efforts.

Worst hit was the village of Wasior, where a landslide buried houses beneath tons of heavy black sludge early on Monday. Soon after, a river burst its banks, sweeping away residents in a fast-moving deluge of water and debris.

"Many people didn't have time to save themselves," stammered Ira Wanoni, adding that at least 30 homes were completely flattened.

Mujiharto, who heads the Ministry of Health's crisis centre, said the death toll had reached 68 by this morning with more than 90 others in hospital, many with broken bones. Some had to be evacuated by helicopter.

More than 2,000 people were seeking shelter in government buildings and makeshift camps.

Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency, said rescue efforts picked up steam today with the arrival of a navy ship carrying security forces and health workers, together with more than 10 tons of supplies.

"We hope this is enough for now," he said, as tents, sleeping mats, blankets and food were loaded into trucks and rushed to the disaster zone.

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