Jakarta, December 23:
Twelve people were dead and dozens remained missing today while more than 70,000 fled their homes as floods swept the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Villagers immediately blamed the floods on illegal logging while authorities were pushing the rescue efforts further into remote areas and fearing the worst would be discovered when flood waters subside.
â€œUntil today (Saturday), eight people have died from floods in Matangkuli and Gayo Lues districts,â€ the head of the public relations department in Aceh province told AFP.
â€œWe have not been able to assess exactly how many people need to be evacuated, but according to reports so far from six districts 70,000 people have fled their homes.â€ He said that number could increase as communications are extended into isolated areas as heavy rains continue to hamper evacuation and relief efforts.
Meanwhile in the province of North Sumatra another four people died and 12 were missing, Langkat district spokesman Sam Sumarno told ElShinta news radio.
â€œWe fear when the tide rises, combined with continued rains from upstream, the situation will be much worse,â€ he said. Heavy rains in Langkat, about 80 km northwest of the North Sumatra provincial capital, Medan, have struck the area over the past week, Efrizal, a volunteer told AFP from the worst affected area.
â€œLast night when the current calmed, we went around the villages to evacuate people and found them under the roofs of their homes and some had climbed trees,â€ he said, adding that water levels had reached five to eight metres.
In Langsa, police diverted traffic as floods cut off the main road connecting the town with Medan and Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province.
Meanwhile, a report from Kuala Lumpur said seven people have died and more than 90,000 people have been displaced in Malaysia over the last week by the heaviest rainfall in a century, officials said today.
There were nearly 74,000 evacuees in public shelters in the southern state of Johor bordering Singapore, 12,650 in neighboring Malacca state, and 5,100 in eastern Pahang state, said an official at the police Internal Security and Public Order Division. All seven of the people reported dead were in Johor, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department said the heavy rains in southern and eastern peninsular Malaysia were expected to persist until Sunday, after which weather conditions should improve.
The likelihood of Kuala Lumpur experiencing heavy rainfall is slim, the department said in a statement.