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Indonesian Rescue Teams Search for Mudslide Victims on Sulawesi Island

More than 200 people have died and many more are reported missing after torrential rains caused flash floods and mudslides across the Indonesian island, Sulawesi. Rescue crews are still looking for survivors and recovering bodies.

Indonesian police and rescue teams are wading through deep mud and floodwaters after two days of heavy rains washed over the southern and eastern parts of Sulawesi island.

Officials said more than 500 houses and at least eight bridges were completely destroyed, buried by landslides and flash floods late Tuesday night.

Wisin Wicayah, who in charge of Indonesia's Natural Disaster Mitigation Division, says the government has delivered 100 tons of rice and medicine to the eight affected districts, and is pouring money into the evacuation effort, but getting relief to victims is difficult.

Wicayah says infrastructure - roads, bridges, and intersections - has been washed out, and the water is still one or two meters deep in some areas. He says some villages are now isolated, although flooded areas are opening slowly as the water recedes. He says the damage assessment is still under way, and is likely to increase when officials can get to the damaged villages.

Access to the hardest hit-area, the island's central Sinjai district, is blocked by 20 kilometers of impassable roads.

Aulia Arriani, spokesperson for the Indonesian Red Cross, says the organization has sent family shelters, medicine, and more than $5,000 to jump-start the relief operation. She says getting people to safety is the agency's first priority.

Arriani says evacuation has been difficult because makeshift shelters for survivors are not yet equipped properly, and aid scheduled to be delivered by train has been delayed.