75 Die In Indonesia Resort Flood

Residents look on a flooded river in Bohorok, North Sumatera, Monday, Nov. 3, 2003. Flash floods swept through a popular tourist resort on Indonesia's Sumatra island, killing 66 people, five of them foreigners, and leaving dozens missing, local officials said Monday. AP

Rescuers were desperately searching Tuesday for survivors after flash floods swept through a resort village near a reserve for endangered orangutans on Indonesia's Sumatra island, killing at least 75 people.

With nearly 100 people missing, the death toll was expected to rise.

Days of heavy rain triggered a surge Sunday night in the Bahorok River, which winds through the village of Bukit Lawang. Dozens of inns and restaurants that line its banks were destroyed by the torrent of water, mud and logs.

On Tuesday, people were trying to get their lives back together.

"What are we going to do now?" said Lebeh Muktar, as he surveyed the remains of his village, which lies 45 miles from the north Sumatran provincial capital of Medan. "Everyone knows someone who was killed. Why us?"

Officials blamed the flood on illegal logging in the jungles above the once picturesque town of 2,500, which has long drawn backpackers from across the world to its orangutan reserve.

Poor coordination among rescuers meant that casualty figures, including those missing, remain confusing.

Five foreigners were listed among the dead on Tuesday: Two Germans, a Singaporean and two Austrians. Earlier reports said an Australian was also killed, but officials in Canberra disputed that.

Police Sgt. Bomer Pasaribu said at least 75 people died and 99 people were reported missing.

Huge branches and boulders lay tumbled across the town. Despite the devastation, officials said the several dozen orangutans in the reserve, located a half mile up the valley from the river, appeared unaffected by the disaster.

"The logs and rocks hit my body and turned me black and blue. I survived when neighbors pulled me out of the river," said a sobbing survivor who identified himself only as Hendri.

"I watched my father and mother drown," he said.

Hundreds of people die each year in floods in Indonesia, an archipelago with 210 million people. Environmentalists say many of the disasters are caused by illegal deforestation, which disrupts the natural absorption and flow of water from the highlands.

Tourism had been the mainstay of the village since the orangutan reserve was established more than 20 years ago.
  • Jarrett Murphy

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