Page last updated at 05:30 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Indonesian dam burst toll rises


Soldiers and police begin to dig through the debris

At least 77 people are now known to have been killed when a dam burst near the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Rescue workers have resumed searching for more than 100 people feared missing after about 400 homes were deluged in the Tangerang district early on Friday.

Visiting the scene, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to help families reconstruct their homes and pledged to rebuild the dam.

Residents likened the onrush of water to the impact of a tsunami.

Torrents of water mixed with boulders and debris crashed through a 70m (230ft) gash in the dam, sweeping away buildings in the Cirendeu suburb.

We will design the new structure in a proper way so that it will not cause any further public concern
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Indonesian president

The deluge destroyed hastily erected flimsy wooden houses as well as more solid concrete buildings.

Local police chief Ngisa Asngari told the Associated Press on Saturday that hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers were continuing to dig through piles of mud and debris, searching for survivors or bodies.

The BBC's Katherine Demopoulos in Jakarta says funerals for many of the dead have already been held.

In Islamic practice the dead are supposed to be buried by sunset on the day they died.

Maintenance questions

The Situ Gintung dam, which stood 16m high and held back a lake of two million cubic metres of water, was built out of dirt by Dutch colonialists in 1933.

Grieving relatives in a flooded area near Jakarta on 27 March, 2009

Experts told the BBC that little maintenance had been carried out on the dam since then, and warned that many dams in Indonesia are in a similar state.

The Jakarta Globe newspaper reported that Cirendeu residents had spotted cracks in the dam a year ago.

They were so fearful of a flood that they had even practised evacuation drills, the newspaper reported.

But following hours of heavy rain during Thursday evening, the dam burst at 0200 (1900 GMT Thursday) when most people were asleep.

Our correspondent says the city has an ageing, poorly maintained drainage system which struggles to cope with heavy rainfall.

Inquiry promised

After touring the disaster site, Mr Yudhoyono told Indonesia's Antara news agency the dam "must be rebuilt".

Made from compacted earth
Built in 1933 under Dutch colonial rule
Surrounded man-made lake on south-west edge of Jakarta
Thought to have released two million cubic metres of water

"We will design the new structure in a proper way so that it will not cause any further public concern," he said.

"The government will help residents reconstruct their damaged houses," Mr Yudhoyono said.

The government promised millions of dollars in cash aid for the victims.

Local officials have promised to investigate the cause of the disaster.

Indonesia map

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