“Small tsunami” kills 52 after Indonesia dam breaks

JAKARTA, (Reuters) – A wall of water from a burst  dam killed 52 people on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital  Jakarta yesterday, crashing into hundreds of homes while many  residents slept, officials said.

While landslides and floods are common during the rainy  season in Indonesia, the latest disaster was probably caused by  torrential rain and poor maintenance, some officials said,  reflecting years of under-investment in much of the country’s  crucial infrastructure.

The dam, which retained water in Lake Situ Gintung in  Tangerang District, 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Jakarta,  dated from the 1930s in the Dutch colonial era, according to  local media reports.

“The dam was an old dam, 16 metres deep,” said Ratu Atut  Chosiyah, governor of Banten province, where the lake is  located.
“Last night, because of heavy rain, the dam could not hold  back the water so it broke,” she added.     Lukman Farid, a resident, told Reuters Television the water  rushed past his house around dawn.

“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 2.5 metres at  the time.”

Rustam Pakaya, a health ministry official, said 52 bodies  had been recovered, while hundreds of houses were under 2  metres (7 feet) of floodwater.
“Hundreds of houses are flooded, tens of houses damaged, it  was like a small tsunami,” he said.

Rescuers retrieved the dead and injured using inflatable  boats or waded through floodwater that in some areas came up to  their chests.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cut short a trip to West  Java province, where he was campaigning ahead of April 9  parliamentary elections, to visit the disaster scene and offer  condolences to the victims.

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