Dam burst kills 50 in Indonesia (Lead)

March 27th, 2009 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, March 27 (DPA) At least 50 people were killed and many were missing Friday after a dam broke near the Indonesian capital Jakarta, officials said.
The Situ Gintung dam in Tangerang district, 50 km south of the capital Jakarta, collapsed at about 2 a.m. (1900 GMT Thursday), sending water crashing into a crowded residential area, officials said.

Hundreds of homes were submerged and many swept away.

Rustam Pakaya, the head of the Health Ministry’s crisis centre, said the death toll had risen to 50 after rescuers found more bodies.

Dozens were still missing and 31 others injured, said Pakaya, who earlier compared the disaster to a tsunami.

District police had earlier put the death toll at 32.

“Some of the bodies were found far away from their homes,” said a local police officer, who gave his name as Cecep.

Residents said hours of heavy rain on Thursday may have caused the 10-metre-high dam to break.

Television footage taken from a helicopter showed a gaping hole and widespread devastation in the area near the dam, which was built in 1933 when Indonesia was under Dutch occupation and holds water from the Pasanggrahan river.

A resident, Mabruri, told TV One channel that his house and bean curd factory were swept away by the flood. Like many Indonesians, he goes by only one name.

“Fortunately no one was in the factory but I saw two of my neighbours being swept away,” he said.

“Something like this never happened before. There were leaks before but officials just took pictures and didn’t do anything about them,” he told the station.

Rescuers were scouring the devastated area using rubber boats.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono postponed an election campaign event to visit the disaster scene, Detik.com news website reported.

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