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SOS Rhino : In the News : Floods kill at least 67 in Sumatra

Floods kill at least 67 in Sumatra

  2003-11-04 / Reuters
Taiwan News

Flash floods swept through one of Indonesia's biggest national parks early yesterday killing at least 67 people, including foreign tourists, as they slept and leaving hundreds more missing.

The floods swept through the Gunung Leuser national park on Sumatra island just after midnight following days of torrential rains, officials and rescue workers said.

By late afternoon yesterday, rescue crews said 67 bodies had been recovered, most of them Indonesians. They identified four of the foreign tourists killed - a 20-year-old German woman, a 40-year-old Austrian woman, a 67-year-old Singaporean man, and a Swiss man aged 30.

Officials said heavy rain since Sunday night had swollen the Bahorok river, which broke its banks, sweeping away dozens of wooden and concrete guesthouses that cater mostly to backpackers and local tourists, some for as little as US$1-$2 a night. Some guesthouses were left under 10 meters of water.

Witnesses said buildings crumbled under the onslaught of the mountain river and boulders and logs swept by the current. The Bahorok runs through the park, renowned for an orang-utan nursery and sightings of the Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros.

"Most of the dead people were sleeping inside houses, which were too weakly built. Those houses just vanished with the people inside," Sofyan Tan, manager of the Bukit Lawang Cottages near the river, told Reuters by telephone.