- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

CIRENDEU, INDONESIA (AP) - Attention was shifting to caring for homeless and hungry survivors Sunday as hopes faded for finding survivors in the mud and debris from a wall of water that crashed into homes when an overflowing dam burst outside the Indonesian capital.

The death toll in and around the town of Cirendeu stood at 91, but more than 100 people were listed as missing. Hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers have been digging, some using hoes or their bare hands, but only have been finding bodies.

A large lake bordering a low-lying residential area southwest of Jakarta overflowed early Friday, sending water cascading over the rim with a thunderous rumble. Hours later, a huge section of the earth wall gave away, sending a 10-foot (three-meter) -high wave gushing through Cirendeu.

National Disaster Coordinating Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono acknowledged that prospects of finding anyone alive in the muck were dimming by the hour, “though there’s always the possibility that someone is alive trapped under the rubble.”

Search-and-rescue operations would continue for at least a week, he said.

Some attention shifted to providing food and shelter to the more than 1,600 people left homeless. Some were camping out in the hall of a nearby university, others in hastily erected tent camps.

“What we urgently need are mattresses, blankets, clothes,” said Abdul Hamid, one the victims. “I don’t have anything anymore, all I had was swept away by the water. I don’t have clothes for my children and my grandchildren.”

Some residents blamed authorities, saying the 76-year-old dam, built in the Dutch colonial era, had been poorly maintained. They said blocked spillways had led to repeated flooding over the years, weakening it in several points.

The Ministry of Public Works promised to investigate.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a nation of 235 million.

More than 40 people were killed in the capital after rivers burst their banks two years ago. Critics said rampant overdevelopment, poor city planning and clogged drainage canals were partly to blame.


Associated Press writer Zakki Hakim contributed to this report.

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