10/11/2010, 00.00
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Thousands fleeing Wasior, affected by the floods

by Mathias Hariyadi
The number of victims in the small Christian centre of Papua rises: At least 146 dead and hundreds missing. In the meantime, exodus of population continues, leaving a ghost town behind them.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Thousands of people are fleeing from Wasior, a small town in West Papua with a Christian majority, struck last week by heavy floods that have transformed roads into torrents. According to local government representative Eka Woysiri, the number of victims has risen to 146. There are thousands of injured and hundreds missing.

Many displaced people liken damage "to that of the tsunami." They are currently en route to Manokwari, the provincial capital: the delay in state aid and intervention has forced them to flee on foot to stay alive.

Most of the more than 4,300 refugees are mothers with small children. Since the tragedy has been caused by devastating deforestation in progress in the area, many are determined not to return. Colonel Edward Sitorius, who is coordinating relief operations sys: "There was no way to let them stay here. The destruction is total, and they have preferred to escape".

Among other things a fetid atmosphere is spreading in Wasior: roads have been submerged by an estimated 3 metres of stagnant mud. Today Wasior looks like a ghost town: there is no trace of the 7 thousand people who lived there, and about 80% of the buildings, private and public, have been destroyed. Obviously there is no electricity and no water supply. President Susilo's visit, scheduled for today has been postponed to allow rescue teams to work without distraction.
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