Dam in Indonesia bursts, dozens killed

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On Friday, a dam burst in a southwestern suburb of Jakarta, Indonesia, killing at least 52 people and displacing a further 1,490. Officials, however, warn that the death toll will likely increase.

The cause of the accident appears to be due to heavy rains that night, which overfilled the Situ Gintung lake behind the broken dam. "The dam was an old dam, 16 metres deep. Last night, because of heavy rain, the dam could not hold back the water so it broke," said the governor of the Banten province, Ratu Atut Chosiyah.

Jakarta is on the island of Java.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

The breach occurred at approximately 02:00 local time (UTC+7), when many people were in bed, asleep. "People were still sleeping and couldn't do anything. Many people are still trapped and the rescue is ongoing," a local official said to Agence France-Presse.

Rescue efforts were hampered due to a deluge of mud and debris from the dam. "We're still trying to get into the houses, but the problem is, mud is getting in our way," social affairs spokesman Mardjito said.

The President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, offered his condolences to the victims of the disaster. "On behalf of the government, I express my condolences to the families of the dead victims and may their souls be accepted by God almighty," he said.

Indonesia's Vice President Yusuf Kalla has visited the scene of the incident. "We will provide emergency help to the victims. For those whose homes were destroyed, the government will help with the repairs," he told Metro TV.

A major concern following this flood is the risk of water-borne diseases such as malaria. These problems are made worse by the local climate being very hot and humid.

The Situ Gintung dam was built early last century, during the Dutch colonial rule. It was holding back a lake of about two million cubic metres (70 million cubic feet) of water.


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