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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 06:25 GMT
Sumatra flood death toll tops 100
Search and rescue team recover a body
The search for bodies is continuing
Monday's flash flood on the Indonesian island of Sumatra is now known to have killed at least 101 people.

Officials said that at least another 117 people were missing presumed dead after the flood near a nature reserve.

Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim has said the disaster was exacerbated by extensive illegal logging in the area, which has stripped hillsides.

Describing loggers as "terrorists", he also blamed officials and business people for letting it happen.

"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 flood hit in the early hours of Monday as most people slept, practically wiping out the village of Bukit Lawang, about 90 kilometres north-west of the regional centre, Medan.

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

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

Five foreign tourists were among those confirmed dead in the flood.

Guesthouses and roads were 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.

The area is hit by floods every year, but environmentalists say that illegal logging has stripped the area of much of the tree cover and other vegetation which would normally absorb water during the rainy season.

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.





SEE ALSO:
Eyewitness: Sumatra flood damage
05 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
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
Country profile: Indonesia
06 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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