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Death toll rises as flash floods and mudslides devastate East Indonesia

Several Adventist institutions severely damaged by the calamity

Death toll rises as flash floods and mudslides devastate East Indonesia

[Photo courtesy of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division]

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Flash flooding and mudslides resulting from torrential rains in East Indonesia destroyed millions of buildings and left more than 50 people dead, 70 people injured and thousands displaced in the Northeastern town of Sentani, near the provincial capital of Jayapura. Authorities expect the death toll to rise as search and rescue efforts are still on-going. 

Emergency response teams are having difficulty reaching locals especially those in areas submerged in neck-high water and mud.  The flash floods and mudslides, which began March 16,  have left bridges and major roads destroyed, making it difficult to reach hard-hit areas.  4,150 locals have been evacuated.

The Adventist church in Papua was also severely impacted by the storms.  The Adventist Aviation Indonesia (AAI), a service institution owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Indonesia, was devastated by this disaster. AAI provides aviation transportation, communication, and logistical support for front-line missions of the church and the Papua Adventist Academy.

In an email Darron Boyd, evangelism for the Adventist Church in Papua said, “Everyone staying in the campus isall safe including our families. But it is unlikely for thousands of people who were washed out during the flood. 

“One of our mechanics for AAI is having surgery. His legs got broken while trying to escape the surge. He had severe cuts on his leg as well,” Boyd added.

Despite the disastrous flooding, Gary Roberts, Adventist pilot for AAI reported all AAI staff are safe.

“The new hangar was flooded, but it is still standing,” said Roberts. “The airplane inside is also safe. The PK-TCA [AAI’s new plane] is with me in Yahukimo during the weekend sparing it from the flash flood’s devastation.”

Roberts added two staff houses of AAI were completely gone, and other things inside the hangar were badly damaged.  One aircraft belonging to Cendrawasih Air that was in AAI’s old hangar for maintenancewashed away to the main road.

Local government officials reported that while flood waters have subsided, residents are being warned against leaving the evacuation areas because fallen trees and rocks are obstructing roads and bridges.

In Doyo, a community about 4 miles (7.2 kilometers) away from Sentani, rocks rolled down from nearby mountains damaging a housing complex.  Uprooted trees and boulders were scattered across muddy roads making transportation a huge challenge to emergency response teams.  Power and communication lines are still down resulting incommunication hurdles. 

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Indonesia is in the area to assess the situation.  ADRA is working closely with local government units in Papua to identify the primary necessities that the agency may provide to the affected communities.

ADRA identifies the immediate needs as ready to eat food, emergency shelters, water, and first aid kits. 

The Adventist church in the Southern Asia-Pacific region solicits your prayers, particularly for the affected families, and the church’s work, which is greatly impacted by this calamity.  

Indonesia is a country located within the Pacific Ring of Fire. An archipelago with 17,000 islands, Indonesia is considered as one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth.