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Flooding kills dozens in heavily-deforested Indonesia

Residents carry their belongings with a raft through the flood in Bengkulu
Residents carry their belongings with a raft through the flood in Bengkulu, Indonesia, April 27, 2019. ANTARA FOTO/REUTERS

Jakarta, Indonesia -- Floods and landslides from torrential rains in Indonesia have killed at least 31 people and displaced thousands in the past few days, the country's disaster agency said Monday. It said 29 people have died in Bengkulu province on the island of Sumatra over the weekend. Two people died from flooding in parts of the capital Jakarta last week and more than 2,000 were displaced.

In Bengkulu, 13 people were missing and more than 12,000 had fled their inundated homes, the agency said. The highest number of deaths was in central Bengkulu where a landslide killed nearly two dozen people.

Thousands of people were involved in the search and rescue effort, it said, but distribution of aid was hampered by power cuts, inaccessible roads and large distances between various disaster-hit areas.

Climate change's role in severe storms and extreme flooding

Deforestation, reduced water catchment areas and inappropriate land use in high-risk areas have increased vulnerability to floods, according to the disaster agency.

Thousands of acres of Indonesian forest have been cleared, in large part so industrial palm oil growers can plant more of the lucrative but controversial crop. 

On the front lines of the battle against Amazon deforestation

As CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers recently discovered in Brazil, deforestation is also seen as an immediate threat to the world's biggest rain forest, the Amazon.

In addition to the very direct impact on human life from the deforestation in Indonesia seen from this week's flooding, the practice is also taking a severe toll on the country's rich wildlife. It has been a major cause of habitat loss for the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, for instance, leading to an increase in deadly confrontations with humans.