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Hopes fade for missing after deadly dam break

ATTENTION shifted to caring for homeless and hungry survivors yesterday after Friday's dam break near Jakarta which sent a wall of water crashing into a densely packed neighborhood.

At least 96 people were killed and 130 others were missing - but hopes of finding them alive were dimming.

Hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers have been digging through the mud and debris, some using hoes or their bare hands, while others scoured the banks of bloated rivers.

But, so far, they have turned up mostly bodies.

"He was our best friend," said Rizki Fauzi, 17, who turned up at a local cemetery with several other somber high school students to visit a newly dug grave for 18-year-old Rochmat.

Days of heavy rain caused a large lake bordering a residential area southwest of the Indonesian capital to overflow, sending water cascading over the rim with a thunderous rumble.

Hours later, a huge section of the earth wall gave away and a 3-meter wave gushed through Cirendeu, overturning cars and uprooting trees.

National Disaster Coordinating Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono acknowledged that the prospects of finding anyone alive were getting less likely by the hour, "though there's always the possibility that someone is alive trapped under the rubble."

Search-and-rescue operations are to continue for at least a week.

Hundreds of people were displaced by the disaster, Kardono said, though large numbers yesterday were starting to return to homes less damaged or were staying with friends or relatives in nearby Jakarta.

"I lost pretty much everything I own," said Rosmiati, 37, whose house was demolished in the muddy surge. "I'll stay with my family until I can get back on my feet."

Some people were camping out in the hall of a nearby university, with others in hastily erected tent camps.

Some residents blamed authorities, saying the 76-year-old dam, built in the Dutch colonial era, had been poorly maintained. They said blocked spillways had led to repeated flooding over the years, weakening it in several places.

The Ministry of Public Works promised to investigate.


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