Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Dam burst felt 'like tsunami hit'

Looking for missing relatives
Residents look for missing family members at a makeshift morgue

Residents of Cirendeu in Indonesia have been been describing their horror at being woken by a wall of water crashing into their homes, after a dam burst.

At least 50 people were killed when the earthen structure failed at around 0200 (1900GMT), south-west of Jakarta.

One woman said the resulting flash flood was "like being in the middle of a tsunami".

The rush of water "sounded like thunder," said one man, while others described hearing screams and shouts.

Sudden flood

Hanif, a student, says that "all of sudden, the water was coming towards the houses. The water was as high as four metres".

Rescuers searching the houses for survivors
Many of the houses became death traps when the water hit

Ghufron, another student, told AFP news agency that "by the time I woke up, the water was up to my nose".

He says he climbed onto the roof to save himself, but that his uncle drowned and three more relatives are missing.

Dewi Masitoh, a 40-year-old housewife, also managed to survive with her husband and two daughters by climbing onto the roof.

"We were on the second floor but my daughter went back downstairs when the window broke and water gushed in. My husband jumped in and pulled her out of the water by her neck.

"I punched a hole through the roof and we all climbed up through," she said, showing cuts and scratches on her arms.


Lukman Farid told Reuters that the waters rose so quickly, even those who were awake could not always escape.

I heard a crashing sound and looked out my window... There was nothing I could do

Cecep Rahman
Local resident

"I was in front of my door and I saw my neighbour tried to drive his car. But the water was turbulent, fast, and in seconds it was already high. The water was about 2.5m (8ft) at the time."

Cholik, 21, was not in the neighbourhood when the dam broke. His mother, brother-in-law and one-year-old niece all died in the sudden flood.

Crying next to the body of his 54-year-old mother, he told the Associated Press news agency that he blamed himself for their deaths.

"I'm devastated. I wasn't home last night... I should have been there to save them."

'Water seeping'

63-year-old Cecep Rahman saw his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter being swept away by the incoming waters.

"I heard a crashing sound and looked out my window," he said. "There was nothing I could do."

While for most residents the bursting of the dam came as a suprise, Supeje Sugeng says he saw signs of danger hours before the disaster.

"I saw water seeping through since midnight. A lot of new homes were being built near the dam. I believe that may have caused the earth making up the dam to loosen."

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