JAKARTA – At least 68 people have been killed while seven are still missing in floods and landslides that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last week, authorities said on Sunday.
Nearly 7,000 people have been forced out of their homes after water levels swelled two meters (seven feet) high, affecting 188 towns in the South Sulawesi island, according to Indonesian agency for disaster management (BNPB).
The rains peaked on Tuesday and swept away part of the region’s infrastructure, inundated almost 12,000 hectares (29,653 acres) of paddy fields and damaged nine bridges, six places of worship and 13 educational centers.
The torrential rains also caused several rivers and reservoirs to overflow, although the water level has since begun to recede with access to communication and transportation also returning to normal slowly.
The search and rescue teams said Gowa district was the worst hit with at least 45 deaths, followed by Jeneponto with 14.
The provincial government of South Sulawesi announced on Thursday a special budget of one billion rupiah ($70,600) for emergency and recovery tasks.
As rains caused by a severe storm hit the southern part of the island from Tuesday, triggering widespread floods and landslides, rescue teams used inflatable boats to render assistance to those affected amid rising water levels.
Many survivors were forced to seek refuge on the roofs of their houses.
Severe rains and floods heaped more misery on the island as people are still piecing together their lives after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck last September, causing widespread death and destruction.
Over 2,200 people died, with over 1,000 people missing and tens of thousands more displaced and injured in the quake.
Floods and landslides hit Indonesia every year during the rainy season, which lasts from December to February.
The country is one of the most disaster-prone in the world as it sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of great seismic and volcanic activity, where some 7,000 earthquakes, mostly moderate, are recorded each year.
Indonesia’s deadliest earthquake with a magnitude of around 9.1 struck off the tip of Sumatra island in 2014, triggering a tsunami that killed nearly 280,000 people in Indonesia and other Indian Ocean nations.