Five-month-old reunited with dad as Indonesia flood death toll hits 79

The baby was plucked on Sunday from debris inside a house where his mother and siblings were found dead in the hard-hit town of Sentani.

Published: 18th March 2019 06:12 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th March 2019 06:12 PM   |  A+A-

Sentani, Indonesia floods

This aerial shot taken on Sunday, March 17, 2019 shows the area affected by flash floods in Sentani, Papua province, Indonesia.. (AP photo)

By AFP

SENTANI(INDONESIA): A baby trapped under rubble after flash flooding destroyed his home in Indonesia has been reunited with his father after the disaster killed the rest of their family, officials said Monday, as the death toll hit 79.

The five-month old was plucked on Sunday from debris inside a house where his mother and siblings were found dead in the hard-hit town of Sentani. The tot has since been returned to his surviving father. "We took the baby to the hospital and had him treated," Papua military spokesman Muhammad Aidi told AFP.

"He was in stable condition and has been released. The father was distressed but happy to be reunited with his baby." The news came as Indonesia's disaster agency raised the official death toll from 58 on Sunday, with more than three dozen people still missing.

Indonesia's military took up the grim task of putting the corpses of mud-caked victims into body bags, after flash floods and landslides ripped through the area. Scores have been injured in the disaster, triggered by torrential rain on Saturday. "The death toll could still go up," said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. 

Rescuers battled mud, rocks and fallen trees in the hunt for survivors, as medical personnel treated the wounded in makeshift tents. "People need food, blankets, clean clothes and clean water," Nugroho said.

State of emergency

In Doyo, one of the most affected areas, a housing complex was littered with huge rocks believed to have rolled down from a nearby mountain, while sediment and waste were piled up on the pavement. The military said 5,700 people have been evacuated from the hard-hit area. "We have over 1,000 personnel searching for more victims," Aidi said.

Disaster-prone Indonesia has issued a 14-day state of emergency in response to the floods.

Papua shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea on an island just north of Australia. Flooding is common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season which runs from October to April.

In January, floods and landslides killed at least 70 people on Sulawesi island, while earlier this month hundreds in West Java province were forced to evacuate when torrential rains triggered severe flooding.

Meanwhile, three people were killed -- including two Malaysian tourists -- and some 182 were injured after an earthquake Sunday triggered a landslide on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, next to Bali.

The 5.5-magnitude quake is thought to have caused the landslide at the Tiu Kelep waterfall in the north of the island. Lombok was rocked by several earthquakes last summer, killing more than 500 people and leaving over 150,000 homeless. Last September, the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island which killed around 2,200 people. 

The Southeast Asian archipelago of some 17,000 islands is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth, straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common.

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