Thu, Dec 28, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Damaged roads hamper flood relief operations

AP AND AFP , BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA AND KUALA LUMPUR

Emergency rations and medicine were airlifted yesterday to 414,000 people displaced by torrential rains on Sumatra island, where flash floods and a landslide have killed at least 109 and left hundreds missing.

Survivors waded through shoulder-high water, stood on rooftops or paddled boats to dry land in Aceh Province and rescue workers complained that washed out roads and bridges have for days hampered their efforts.

"The waters are receding now and some roads have been repaired, so we're starting to get supplies through," said Syamsul Maarif, National Coordination Body for Disaster Relief chief.

DISEASE THREAT

"The most urgent thing now is medicine and mosquito nets," he added, pointing to the threat of dengue fever and other waterborne disease.

Authorities were struggling to tally the dead and missing, saying some victims were probably stranded in surrounding hills.

At least 70 people were killed and 205 missing in Aceh, located on Sumatra's northernmost tip, and more than 365,000 people have been displaced, said Suwarno Amin, an official with the province's disaster task force.

Food and medicine was being flown by helicopter to six districts, he said.

In North Sumatra Province another 31 people were buried in a landslide and 11 others died in flash floods, said Edy Sofyan, a government spokesman, putting the number of missing there at 14.

He warned that heavy rain -- which has forced more than 44,000 from their homes -- was continuing and could trigger more landslides in coming days.

But as waters started to subside on yesterday, thousands of victims headed for shelters on the road to the regional capital, Medan, many suffering from skin problems and fever caused by poor hygiene and dirty water, said Abul Hayat, a spokesman for the Red Cross.

MALAYSIAN WOES

Meanwhile, Malaysia's flood crisis worsened yesterday with more downpours that forced tens of thousands to flee their homes and five relief centers to reopen in southern Johor state.

More than 65,000 people nationwide have been forced to evacuate their homes, most of them in Johor where floodwaters are rising again, the official Bernama news agency said.

The number of evacuees hit a high of 90,000 on the weekend but had halved until the situation worsened again on Tuesday.

The death toll stands at eight, and the search for a missing 17-year-old youth who disappeared several days ago continues.

The Star newspaper quoted Works Minister Samy Vellu as saying some 81 million ringgit (US$22 million) in damage had been caused to roads and bridges, half of it in Johor.

Authorities shut down power to Kota Tinggi, one of the worst affected districts in the state, as floodwaters rose on Tuesday night, Bernama said.

Newspaper reports said crocodiles were menacing flood victims and stealing chickens from backyard coops, and pythons and cobras had also been spotted in abandoned houses.

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