At least nine people were killed and one remained missing after a flash flood made a crowded hanging bridge over a river in Indonesia collapse, officials said Monday.
A group mostly made up of teenagers was surprised by the rising water levels caused by the heavy rainfall that battered the Kaur district in the province of Bengkulu (located in the southwest of Sumatra island), according to a statement by Agus Wibowo, a spokesperson for Indonesia's national disaster management authority (BNPB), EFE-EPA reports.
Volunteers have been working to search for missing victims and emergency posts have been established," said Wibowo, who added that at least 17 people survived the collapse.
Three of the bodies were found several miles away from the bridge's debris, which was completely submerged in the river, as could be seen in images released by the BNPB.
In a later statement, Wibowo said that the excess of weight from the dozens of teenagers on the bridge, who were making videos and snapping pictures of the raging river below them, contributed to its collapse.
The official warned "not to make natural events a spectacle because it could potentially become a new disaster."
The Indonesian meteorological agency (BMKG) on Monday issued an alert for heavy rains in several parts of the archipelago, including Bengkulu – where strong winds and lightning storms are expected. The bad weather is forecast to continue throughout the week.
In late December and early January, the torrential rains ravaging the Southeast Asian nation left a death toll of at least 66 people in the Jakarta metropolitan area – where some 30 million inhabitants live amid overflowing waterways – and the west of Java Island, while tens of thousands were displaced from their homes.
Jakarta police have reported the destruction of at least 16 mosques so far. Two weeks ago, a five-story building in the west of the capital partially caved in, injuring eight people. The structure's collapse was triggered by a huge pool of water that formed on the fifth floor.
The ongoing floods are the deadliest since 2013, when dozens of people died during a particularly brutal monsoon.
Every year, the tropical archipelago is afflicted by flooding and landslides during the rainy season, which peaks between December and February.
These recurring disasters disproportionately impact the poor in a country that has seen a rapid growth in inequality over the past few years, according to the non-profit Oxfam International, which said in a recent report that Indonesia had the sixth-highest wealth gap on the planet.
One of the main factors worsening the disastrous effects of the periodic rains appears to be climate change: Jakarta, an especially overcrowded and heavily-polluted urban agglomeration, is sinking at an alarming rate mainly due to the excessive extraction of groundwater, prompting authorities to announce last summer they would soon relocate the nation's capital to a lushly forested area on the island of Borneo.
Source: Kazinform News Agency
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