Sun, 21 May 2000

Nine missing people found alive

MAUMERE, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): Nine people previously declared missing after massive flooding in West and Central Malaka districts on Tuesday have been found safe.

East Nusa Tenggara Deputy Governor Yohanes Pake Pani said on Saturday the nine people had been found that day in Rebasa village, West Malaka regency. "They were in a big tree attempting to avoid the flooding," Yohanes said.

At least 140 people are believed to have been killed in the flood, while only 81 bodies have been found. A mass burial was conducted on Friday by the local administration.

Latest reports say some 55,000 people in Besikama village in Belu Selatan regency need to be evacuated from their flooded homes.

Udayana Military chief Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri said before leaving for the flood-hit Belu area on Saturday that the people also badly needed food and medicine.

Kiki flew to Belu by an Air Force Hercules along with 25 members of a flood task force, including doctors, paramedics and students of Udayana University in Bali.

The plane also carried 2.5 tons of medicine, food and other first aid supplies for emergency health centers, Antara reported.

The flood, said to be the fourth worst to hit the area since 1936, destroyed thousands of houses. Torrential rain was blamed for the flooding.

The Central Malaka district is believed to be worst hit, where at least 7,000 houses and a large number of schools and government offices were ravaged by the flood, Blasius Manek, deputy speaker of the regency's legislative council, said.

Floodwater reached between one and two meters in depth in West Malaka. The 16-year-old Benanain bridge collapsed.

The total financial loss is expected to reach billions of rupiah.

Meanwhile, East Nusa Tenggara Deputy Governor Yohanes Pake Pani has declared a curfew in the flooded districts of West and Central Malaka in a bid to help security officers maintain order.

Provincial spokesman J.B. Nani Kosapilawan said on Saturday that the curfew would last for two weeks from Friday.

The curfew was considered necessary as almost all infrastructure in the two districts were destroyed by the flood, and that disorder could erupt at anytime, Nani said. (yac/sur)