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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 10:25 GMT
Sumatra illegal loggers slammed
Search and rescue team recovering a body, Sumatra
The search for bodies is continuing
The Indonesian Environment Minister has called illegal loggers "terrorists" - after a flash flood on the island of Sumatra killed at least 80 people.

Another 100 people are missing after the disaster, which is thought to have been made worse by extensive logging removing cover that once retained rain.

The minister, Nabiel Makarim, blamed corrupt officials and business people for the practice.

The search for bodies continues around the worst-hit village of Bukit Lawang.

A massive pile, maybe half the size of a football pitch, of huge tree trunks, personal belongings and the odd tin roof
Anthony Hurford
Eyewitness

"These illegal loggers are like terrorists," said Mr Makarim, after talks with the Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, in Jakarta.

But he said: "It is difficult to combat illegal logging because we must face financial backers and their shameless protectors both from the Indonesian armed forces and police, and from other government agencies."

President Megawati blamed the Sumatra flood on environmental destruction.

"Nature will become angry if we are arrogant. It will show its devastating rage... when we treat nature with violence," she said.

Debris

The flash floods hit in the early hours of Monday as most people slept, practically wiping out Bukit Lawang, which is about 90 kilometres northwest of the regional centre, Medan.

The village is popular with tourists taking part in jungle treks in the nearby Gunung Leuser national park, and visiting a rehabilitation centre for orang-utans.

Five tourists were among those confirmed dead in the flood.

Guesthouses and roads have been washed away, while settlements have been coated in a layer of mud, logs and rubble.

An official from the disaster relief agency, who did not want to be identified, told the AFP news agency that there was not enough equipment to remove the debris and look for victims.

"We suspect bodies are buried under piles of logs or debris of houses swept away by the flood," she said.


Logging impact

The tragedy has focused attention once again on the rapid destruction of Indonesia's forests.

A contributing factor may have been the lodging of hundreds of thousands of logs in a waterway in the mountains above the village, which came crashing down when the water pressure came too great, locals said.

They said the government had ordered the felling of hundreds of trees for the construction of a major highway from neighbouring Central Aceh district.

The North Sumatra governor, Rizal Nurdin, has already blamed illegal logging for the disaster, and said the central government was not doing enough to tackle the problem.

The authorities have said they may have to close the area to visitors for up to six months.

The BBC correspondent in Indonesia says that will have a devastating impact on local villagers, many of whom work in service industries.



Use the form below to send us your experiences of the flooding, or the experiences of people you know who have been caught in it.

Sumatra has been a "time bomb" for many years; an environmental disaster waiting to happen
Susan Johnston, Indonesia
According to environmentalists and NGO workers here in Indonesia, Sumatra has been a "time bomb" for many years; an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Foremost among their concerns is the irresponsible destruction of vast areas of rainforest, including the national park and orang-utan habitat area upstream from this flood. This is but one of many environmentally devastated areas in Sumatra. This devastation is yet another of Indonesia's "dirty little secrets".
This secret is in fact, not so little at all. To put it in perspective, the island of Sumatra is the size of Great Britain. It contains (or rather, contained) some of the most important and largest tracts of rainforest in the world. The rate at which these forests are being wiped out is appalling, and its impact is far greater than that of localised flash floods. These rainforests are the lungs of the planet. Our lungs.
Susan Johnston, Indonesia

I travelled there for the millennium. The Bohorok River is always raging. The guest houses are so close to the river; they never had a chance if there was a 15 foot wall of trees rocks and water for 30 minutes. When you go there it becomes a part of your life; I met so many wonderful people. My heart goes out to everyone in Bukit Lawang.
Michael Hren, USA.

At certain times during the rainy season our street in Yogyakarta (central Java) was flooded knee deep. Some of the youngsters fashioned boards from bits of scrap wood and had hours of fun trying to 'surf' down the road.
Ed, Hong Kong

I was caught up in the Gujrat Flood is 1979 when the Morbi Dam burst. The devastation was tremendous. The only help we received was from an organisation called 'BAPS' who now have a big temple in NW London in Neasden. It is a Swaminarayan Temple and I went there 24 years later to pay my thanks.
Shyam Mehta, India

For the most part of the year, I lived and work in Bukit Lawang, where the floods have occurred. I am currently on holiday back in the UK, but my boyfriend, who is Indonesian, is still there. I cannot find out how he is. Bukit Lawang, although touristy, is a small and very close community; of which I have always felt a part. I am desperate to return to try and salvage what little remains. The community will pull together, and will support each other, but at the moment I can only imagine the devastation that has been caused.
Personally, at the least, I have lost my home and my possessions, and a few people that I care about. I dare not think of the worst-case scenario - that I may have lost the love of my life, and many friends.
Hayley Wood, UK

I stayed at the Jungle Inn Bukit Lawang in 1996. There was only one way to describe the place - the Garden of Eden. How sad to think of the place gone. My thoughts go out to the local people, who made the place such a wonderful destination for nature tourists.
Ifan Morgan, UK

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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"These flattened buildings were once homes and guesthouses"


Nabiel Makarim, Indonesian environment minister
"The problem is too big."



SEE ALSO:
Eyewitness: Sumatra flood
03 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Sumatra flood
04 Nov 03  |  Photo Gallery
Flash floods: The deadly force of nature
18 May 01  |  Science/Nature
Clock ticking for Indonesian rainforest
30 Aug 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Floods hit Jakarta
13 Feb 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
06 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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