Death toll from Indonesia floods, mudslides rises to 89

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This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents walking along a flooded road in Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. (AFP)
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This photo taken on Dec. 24, 2012 shows a bird's eye view of flooded streets of the northeastern town of Kuantan. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents walking along a flooded road as they evacuate Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents commuting along a flooded road in Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. Some 6,000 houses have been flooded from the overflowing Citarum river due to heavy rain in the area. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Death toll from Indonesia floods, mudslides rises to 89

  • The lack of heavy equipment is hindering rescue efforts
  • Authorities are still looking for 74 missing residents

JAYAPURA, Indonesia: The death toll from flash floods and mudslides triggered by torrential downpours in Indonesia’s easternmost province has risen to 89, with dozens of others missing, officials said Tuesday.
Floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province’s Jayapura district early Sunday, hampering rescue efforts.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the worst-hit area from the flooding was Sentani subdistrict, where tons of mud, rocks and trees from a landslide on a mountain rolled down to a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents.
He said 89 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Tuesday. Another 159 people were injured, including 84 who were hospitalized, many with broken bones and head wounds.
The number of dead is expected to rise as rescue workers comb through affected areas.
More than 1,600 rescuers, including soldiers and police, faced difficulties on Tuesday in clearing huge piles of debris due to shortages of heavy equipment, said Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi.
“We face difficulties removing debris and the bodies under rubble as we don’t have enough excavators,” Aidi said, adding that rescuers were searching for 74 people reportedly missing and feared dead.
Nugroho said about 7,000 residents were displaced from their homes, with more than 400 houses and other buildings damaged and thousands of others submerged.
Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods that kill dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.


Bangladeshi courts freeing child suspects due to virus risk

Updated 58 min 21 sec ago

Bangladeshi courts freeing child suspects due to virus risk

  • On Friday, the total number of COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh stood at 60,391, with 811 deaths
  • About 400 children have been granted bail in recent weeks and more than 300 of them have already been reunited with their families

DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh have been releasing hundreds of children suspected of committing mostly petty crimes as they try to keep the coronavirus from spreading in overcrowded detention centers, officials said Friday.
The orders for their release on bail came from virtual courts set up by the country’s Supreme Court with the help of UNICEF, officials said.
About 400 children have been granted bail in recent weeks and more than 300 of them have already been reunited with their families, said Natalie McCauley, chief of child protection at UNICEF in Bangladesh.
She said the decision came as public health experts said children living in the country’s detention centers face a higher risk of getting infected, mainly because of overcrowding and poor conditions.
Bangladesh has a protracted system of delivering justice, with some cases for petty crimes taking years to conclude. According to UNICEF, some 23,000 cases involving children under 18 are currently pending with courts across the country.
Saifur Rahman, a special officer of the Supreme Court and additional district judge who is involved with the release program, said the program was crucial as with inadequate staff and utilities in detention centers, it was extremely difficult to minimize the risk of infection from COVID-19.
“In all fairness, maintaining social and physical distancing is next to impossible in such a situation,” he said.
Mohammed Rakib, 15, was accused of beating a man in Dhaka nearly two months ago. A judge from a regular court denied him bail and he was eventually sent to an overcrowded detention center just outside Dhaka that UNICEF says houses nearly 700 children even though it has the capacity for about 300.
Late last month he was finally granted bail through the new virtual court.
“It feels great to be freed and get united with my parents,” Rakib told The Associated Press on Friday. “I am very happy. I have suffered in the jail a lot. That’s a bad place.”
The reunion was special for Rakib and his family as they were able to celebrate the end of Ramadan together.
“His mother burst into tears after seeing our youngest son,” said his father Mohammed Abdul Hakim. “It was a moment of joy. We love him a lot.”
On Friday, the total number of COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh stood at 60,391, with 811 deaths. Public health experts say the actual number of the infected people is likely much higher.