Flash floods kill 44 in Indonesia

Death toll expected to rise after floodwaters destroy roads and bridges in Flores island

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At least 44 people were killed after flash floods and landslides swept an island in Indonesia's eastern province on Sunday morning, rescue officials said.

Authorities expected the toll to rise.

Hours before people woke to celebrate Easter Sunday, torrential rain unleashed flash floods on the Catholic-majority Flores Island.

Mud inundated homes, while bridges and roads in the eastern end of the island were destroyed.

"There are 44 people dead with nine injured" in East Flores, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Raditya Jati.

“Many are still under the mud,” he added.

Rescuers were struggling to reach the remote and worst-hit area in East Flores because of rains and strong waves.

The number of injured was also expected to increase as the agency was still receiving reports from locals, Mr Jati said.

"We are still documenting the total number of people injured," the spokesperson said. The extreme weather was expected to continue in the coming week.

Separately on Sunday, major floods also killed two people in Bima city in the neighbouring province of West Nusa Tenggara, said the disaster agency.

Dams in four subdistricts also overflowed, submerging nearly 10,000 houses in Bima following a nine-hour downpour, Mr Jati said.

Deadly landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.

In January, flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.

And at least 11 people died in landslides on Borneo last September, while a few months earlier dozens were killed in a similar disaster in Sulawesi.

Environmentalists say deforestation is often a cause of the landslides.

The country's disaster agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians, nearly half of the country's population, live in areas at risk of landslides.