MANADO, Indonesia (AP) — Days of torrential rain triggered a landslide and flash floods on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, killing at least 13 people and sending tens of thousands fleeing for safe ground, disaster officials said Thursday.
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Residents and rescuers in Sangihe district of North Sulawesi province dug through debris with their bare hands and shovels. Two bodies were pulled from the mud, and eleven others were found in the water late Wednesday, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
More than 1,000 houses were flooded by overflowing rivers in five other districts of the province, he said.
About 40,000 people fled to temporary shelters, and rescuers were still searching Thursday for at least two more villagers.
Police and soldiers struggled to reach about 1,000 people who were isolated in three hamlets after floods destroyed the only bridge, said the agency’s provincial chief Noldy Liow.
He said that rivers bloated by days of rain burst their banks and washed away dozens of houses and vehicles, including in the provincial capital of Manado. Floodwaters reached a meter (3.28 feet) in some places.
“Many people drowned or were buried by mud … They didn’t have time to save themselves,” Liow said.
Millions of people live in mountainous regions and near fertile plains that are close to rivers. Seasonal rains and high tides in recent days have caused widespread flooding across much of Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that’s home to 240 million people.