CIRENDEU, Indonesia – Torrential rain caused a dam to burst early today, sending a wall of water crashing into a crowded neighborhood just outside Indonesia’s capital. The flood killed at least 50 people, left more than a dozen others missing and submerged hundreds of homes.
Rescuers, some using rubber rafts to reach victims, predicted the death toll would rise.
Health Ministry Crisis Center chief Rustam Pakaya said the dam – which was built decades ago, when the country was still under Dutch colonial rule – broke at around 2 a.m., while most people were sleeping.
In some places, water levels were roof high.
A 9-year-old girl was found unconscious on top of one home after waters receded, but she died on the way to the hospital, said rescuer Toni Suhartono, adding that the girl’s parents and sister were among the missing.
Elsewhere, bodies were seen floating amid chairs, clothing, sandals and other debris. Telephone lines were toppled and cars swept away, some parked in driveways and ending up in parks or intersections hundreds of feet away.
“A flash flood came suddenly and was horrifying,” said Seto Mulyadi, adding that the water smashed all the windows and doors on the ground floor of his house, while he, his wife and four children were sleeping upstairs. “My house is a dreadful mess … Thank God my family is safe.”
Some people living near the dam said they heard sirens before the disaster, which followed a four-hour downpour. Others were caught completely off guard.
Pakaya said at least 50 people were killed and more than 400 houses submerged.
The 32-foot-high dam, which was holding back about 70 million cubic feet of water at a lake fed by the Pesanggrahan River, was built up to one century ago, according to one city official, Dadang Arkuni.
Some authorities said heavy rains caused the dam to first overflow and then, because the foundation was not made of concrete, to burst.