6 Oct 2010

Infrastructure problems hamper response to deadly flooding in West Papua

8:21 pm on 6 October 2010

Blocked transport links in Indonesia's West Papua province continue to hamper access to the flood-ravaged Teluk Wondama district for relief and rescue teams.

At least 86 people are now believed to have perished in the flooding caused by days of torrential rain.

Reports emerging from West Papua say that many buildings have been submerged in thigh-high water and roads and bridges have been destroyed with the worst-hit area identified as the small town of Wasior.

The AFP agency reports that the seaside town's Sanduay neighbourhood was all but flattened when a wall of mud, rocks and logs smashed into it.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the area, 240 kilometres southeast of Manokwari.

Some of the hundreds injured have had to be evacuated by helicopter and, with hospitals in Manokwari overwhelmed, others were taken by ship to neighbouring provinces.

The Head of the Indonesian delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross, Philip Charlesworth says while water is subsiding, many roads are still blocked by mud and debris.

"So the infrastructure is problematic which is hampering the efforts of assessment teams to get in to other areas that may be affected. At this stage, the government has responded with the movement of the military - both navy and army - into the area, and they're providing airlift for tents, medical supplies and food to come into the area as well."

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people were seeking shelter in government buildings and makeshift camps.

Residents and rescue teams have been searching the mud and debris for survivors but officials say the death toll is almost certain to rise.