Indonesian dam failure kills 52

By Richard High27 March 2009

A dam southwest of the Indonesian capital Jakarta has burst killing 52 people and washing away hundreds of homes, according to local press reports.

The dam failure happened at 02.00 this morning (27 March) while many residents of the suburb of Cireundeu were sleeping. The low-lying, poorly built houses were left flattened by a 2.5 m high wall of water and mud.

Danang Susanto, an official with the health ministry's crisis centre, estimated up to 500 homes were destroyed or submerged after heavy rains caused the breach in the earthen dam at the edge of Situ Gintung lake in Cireundeu.

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

Landslides and floods are common during the rainy season in Indonesia, but the latest disaster is thought to have been caused by torrential rain and poor maintenance, according to local government officials, reflecting years of under-investment in much of the country's infrastructure.

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