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Flood Kills 80 in Indonesia

An additional 123 are missing in the surge, which officials blame on illegal logging.

November 04, 2003|From Associated Press

BUKIT LAWANG, Indonesia — A torrent of water, mud and logs swept through a resort village on Indonesia's Sumatra island, killing at least 80 people, including five foreigners, and leaving 123 people missing, officials said Monday.

Days of heavy rain triggered a surge Sunday night in the Bohorok River, destroying dozens of inns and restaurants that line its banks.

"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."

Hendri said the surge lasted 10 minutes and carried thousands of logs, which smashed into the inns near the river.

Despite the immense tragedy, there were stories of dramatic escapes.

Californians Tyson Murphy, 27, and Tommy Connelly, 26, said they climbed trees to get away from the deluge, clinging to the branches for 1 1/2 hours.

When the waters subsided, "we each kissed our respective trees and took a branch with us," said Connelly, of Ladera Ranch.

"It's one of those things you think will never happen to you," said Murphy, of Laguna Beach, sporting dreadlocks and a Bob Marley T-shirt. "I just said a couple of prayers."

Most of Bukit Lawang's 2,500 people were asleep when the torrent hit. Many had been observing the dawn-to-dusk fast of the Ramadan holy month and had gone to bed early so they could get up before dawn for a meal.

Officials blamed the flood on illegal logging in the jungles above the village, which is 45 miles from the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan.

Huge branches and boulders lay tumbled across the once picturesque village, which has long drawn backpackers from across the world to a nearby reserve for endangered orangutans.

Despite the devastation, officials said that the dozens of orangutans appeared unaffected.

The dead included two Germans, two Austrians and a Singaporean, a police officer said.

Hundreds of people die each year in floods in Indonesia.

Environmentalists say many of the disasters are caused by illegal deforestation, which disrupts the natural absorption and flow of water from the highlands.

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